The Trouble in Paradise

For hundreds of years people have flocked to the United States because of its fairness, opportunities, and individual freedoms.

Are we still the land of the free and home of the brave?

Our nation became great for many reasons, but perhaps the biggest reason is because of the growth of our middle class.  The period from post WWII until about 1973 produced more gain in individual wealth than in any other time in our history.  As presented by Jason Furman, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers, during this time: “The US enjoyed rapid labor productivity growth, averaging 2.8% annually. Income inequality fell, with the share of income going to the top 1% falling by nearly one-third, while the share of income going to the bottom 90% rose slightly.”  Unfortunately, since then, the numbers have fallen into the negative.

What I know is the direction our country has been heading is unsustainable.

I think it all started with Reaganomics, a supply-side economic theory that has not proved to function as intended.  For those unfamiliar, the idea is to reduce taxes on the upper end in the hope they will re-invest it, creating more business that produces more jobs and a growing economy.  But, that hasn’t happened.  Instead, wages have stagnated, the economy has stalled, and the middle class is shrinking.  That’s mainly a result of human nature; once you get power, the first thing you want to do is keep it.  So as a few got more and more powerful they bought off our legislators who in turn created huge tax loopholes and other incentives to drive more profit to a few.   As a result, we now live in a country that looks very much like an oligarchy.

The last thirty or so years has also included an effort to privatize all shared services in order to reduce the size of government.  As a result, we have a judicial and penal system incentivized to put more people in prison, the most expensive healthcare system in the world, and kids either uneducated or steeped in debt from the high cost of college.  And, that’s to name just a few problem areas.  Today, we have less choice in our lives and the freedoms that sprung from a strong middle class and from shared resources are nearly all gone.

Returning to an age of shared growth.

In order to turn the tide, we have to make some changes and where that starts is in realizing that free market principles are NOT the best way to deliver ALL goods and services.  Some yes, but not all.  We need to let go of our fear about words like socialism and understand there are good ideas everywhere from which we can cherry pick.  We need to understand that an effective government can be good for all people, not just a few.  We need to get our heads out of the sand, stop hiding behind ancient ideology with no evidence of success, and think critically about how we govern and grow our economy.

And, that starts with YOU!  We ALL need to take the time to question the opinions and positions that pundits, leaders, and celebrities are presenting.  We need to educate ourselves on all sides of the issues, open our minds and look at options and new ideas rather than simply adhering to “this is the way we have always done it.”  And, most importantly, everyone needs to remember to vote.  If you don’t, nothing will change.

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