Monday, February 18, 2013

A Changing America - Be Alert

Currently I am reading "Who Stole The American Dream" by Hedrick Smith (Pulitzer Prize-winning former Editor of the New York Times). The subject fascinates me and concerns me for America.  Recently I read a similarly themed book "Coming Apart" by Charles Murray.  Murray explored a new formation of American classes that are different from anything we have ever known.

In "Who Stole the American Dream", Hedrick Smith discusses how over the past three decades we have become two Americas. We are a sharply divided country: divided by power, income, ideology. The "income gap" is astounding and the middle class is shrinking fast. Americans sense that something is profoundly wrong, that we have gotten way off track as a nation. America's super-rich have accumulated trillions of new wealth while middle-class America has stagnated. We have unwittingly dismantled the political and economic infrastructure which underpinned the great era of middle class prosperity of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

In "Coming Apart" Murray discussed how Americans increasingly live in different cultures, with the powerful upper class living in enclaves and gated communities surrounded by their own kind, ignorant about life in mainstream America.  The lower class suffers from erosion of family and community life that strike at the heart of the pursuit of happiness.  That divergence puts the success of the American experiment at risk.

I am concerned how the Tea Party/GOP controlled NC general Assembly is cutting away, in a radical way, at the social safety net.  The "social contract", an important underpinning in America, is eroding.  The fact that the new GOP governor is turning his back on the state health care exchanges and refusing to accept Medicaid funds to assist with coverage for the uninsured is very concerning.

It is amazing for me to read about Facebook earning record profit of over $1 billion and paying no federal or state taxes. There are other large corporations in the same boat. This is in a time when we are attempting to reduce America's debt and deficit.   I am astounded and perplexed when we run a major party candidate for President of the United States who shelters his fortune, obtained through leveraged buyouts and outsourcing American jobs, in Caribbean and Swiss accounts to avoid paying taxes into a US Treasury he would purport to head.  America has fundamentally gotten off track.

Americans of good will must stay engaged in the political process and public policy arena.  We must stay focused on, and concerned with, the direction of America.  We must act on our values and our core beliefs. I am not pessimistic.  I believe that the arc of the moral universe, to which Martin Luther King often referred, will bend back toward the direction of fairness and justice in America. But as Barack Obama said, we must bend it. The foundation of the Judeo-Christian ethic, which is the basis for our existence and the foundation of our underpinning, is at stake. Be alert.

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