Though he has lived the American dream, Islam believes that the dream is in peril and offers suggestions on how to reverse the trend. Islam says that the American Dream is at risk because the United States is loosing its competitive advantage. Recently, he answered WashingtonExec’s questions about the dream, the risk and the potential solutions.
WashingtonExec: Why did you write this book?
Frank Islam: The reason for writing this book: disappointment, concern, and a sense of responsibility to our fellow citizen and the nation that we all love.
As a citizen we have a responsibility to our nation. We wrote this book out of sense of responsibility to call citizens’ attention to the crisis. The purpose of this book is to ask every citizen to participate in reversing the decline. We are at a critical crossroads in America. The American dream is at risk and the dream is in decline. We have become a deficit and divided nation –our economic and social fabric is in tatter. The decision we make and the actions we take will determine the future of America and the American dream for all of us.
WashingtonExec: What is the American Dream?
Frank Islam: I am sure that each of us has our own definition of the American Dream. For me, the definition is simple. It is the opportunity to bet he best that you can be and to be recognized and rewarded for accomplishing that. It is the chance to be successful and to achieve economic security. It is the freedom to say or do what you want. The fundamental elements of the dream are getting educated and working hard in order to have a good job that pays decent wages, provide adequate benefits, put food on the table, a roof over one’s head, and allows for retirement with dignity.
WashingtonExec: You have said in your book that small businesses create most of the jobs in the United States and that small businesses are having trouble getting capital for investments. Which action would you take to rectify this problem?
Frank Islam: Consider establishing a new national bank such as an infrastructure bank or a Business Development Bank and Investment Bank to lend to those businesses, or to allow the government itself to make more direct loans to business. Those banks could be supported with a blend of public and sector capital. One thought would be to issue “war type” bonds with incentives in them to high-net-worth individuals who invest in the banks.
The new Small Business Act that was passed recently helps to address this problem. But it does not go far enough. It is skewed to giving more capital to lending institutions with some new incentives and accountabilities without enough real traction to promote a dramatic increase in small business lending. The primary beneficiaries from this act will be the regional and local banks that will use the loans to build up their balance sheets and not small businesses themselves
WashingtonExec: How can the U.S. restore its competitive advantage in an increasingly global economy?
Frank Islam: A combination of the U.S. tax code, the declining state of the U.S. infrastructure, the quality of the country’s education system and barriers to the immigration of the skilled workers and dysfunctional congress, and budget deficit and debt and declining capacity to manufacture cutting edge products are making the U.S. less attractive to Multinational Corporation. We need to make America more inviting place trade and to do business.
We must win the race for global competitive advantage.
WashingtonExec: What is the one thing you hope your readers take away from your book?
Frank Islam: We are in a war for the future of America and the American dream. Winning that war is not someone else’s job. It is our job. If we abdicate that responsibility, we cede our fundamental right as citizens.
WashingtonExec: Your book argues that the American Dream is in decline and at risk. Do you think that most American’s realize that the American Dream is at risk?
Frank Islam: As the poor economic conditions persist, more and more Americans have come to the recognition that the American dream is at risk. The question confronting us is not whether America is in decline, but is the American dream in decline.
The answer to that is an unequivocal “yes”, because over the past three decades we have had a significant redistribution of wealth in the United States. We are becoming a nation of “have a lots” and the “have nots”
We are becoming a nation without a middle class. If we allow that to continue, the American dream will diminish and eventually disappear.