Is there any common ground?
It’s so nice to be back among you, posting again. Or, in my mother-in-law’s words, sending my comments to the Internet. (Congratulations, you’re the whole internet now!) I’ve been in a bit of funk about the state of things lately. When we have elections and we can’t agree on the issues, I get a bit worried. I know we don’t all agree on gun control, for instance, but it turns out that it’s entirely possible to deny that gun violence is even a problem in our country. Likewise, climate change. It seems some people still think it’s either a) a hoax, or b) not caused by human activity if it is real, which makes me wonder how we’ll ever get serious about changing it. This is not even to speak of the “women’s issues” like contraception and abortion. Silly me thought those were for-real economic matters that affect the whole nation, but obviously they’re just for girls. Economics is for big, strong men and a lot of them are wondering why us gals can’t shut up about our hoo-hoos. Finally, even in the middle of a meningitis outbreak that, hello, demonstrates the crucial need for national and state inspectors, we’re still talking about how “government” is “too big.” I thought government comprised a lot of different people doing a wide variety of important work, but, no, it’s just a thing that provides too many jobs to people who don’t deserve them. Is that right? I’ve never been real clear on the whole philosophy.
Then there is crucial issue that threatens to divide this country, not just from our friends on the other side of the aisle, but from our founding ideals as well. I’m talking about inequality, of income, of wealth, and of opportunity. As Joseph Stiglitz pointed out Sunday:
Our government does less to correct these inequalities than we did in the past, or than other countries do, and … its efforts have diminished. It’s not just a matter of redistribution, as some suggest. It’s in part a matter of ensuring that those at the top pay a fair share of their taxes. And it’s in part a matter of ensuring that those at the bottom and in the middle get a fair start in life, through access to education, adequate nutrition and health, and not being exposed to the environmental hazards that have come to plague many of our poor neighborhoods.”
Not to worry, there are plenty of people who will tell you that inequality is not a problem, has always been a problem so it doesn’t matter, or is only fair since some people are just takers. But if you are concerned, how do you talk about it with people who don’t agree with you? The only way a democracy can move forward is through consensus, and I wonder if we’ll ever achieve that again. To quote a comment on the above article: “What puzzle me, is that all these so called interlectuals, speak of the inequality of this country. That problem has been around since the beginning of time.” Okay, I only put that in because “interlectuals” made me laugh. Also this: “Most liberals, live in Disney Land,” That’s a whole sentence, though it inexplicably ends with a comma. Hilarity aside, I guess I want to tell people that it’s mathematically impossible that all of the talent we will need to solve this country’s looming problems resides in the children of the top 1, 10, or even 20 percent. When we stop being a land of equal opportunity, we’re not just hurting the kids we leave behind, we’re consigning ourselves to a darker future than we deserve.