Where are we in America, we sons and daughters of liberty, of immigrants, of factory workers and hardscrabble farmers?
The news in my part of the patch isn’t full of hope: soaring local, state and national debt; borrowed money for just about everything; education and municipal budgets slashed, money from foreign nations for two increasingly fuzzy wars, to be repaid with heavy interest and God knows what by those not yet born. Roads and other infrastructure neglected while the human skeleton, sinew and mind no longer meet health care for a full tune-up.
Yet we see more rich, enabled by greed, lobbies, bailouts that carry no price tag while the benefactors see no moral need to "pay forward" their rescue. If there is supposed to be re-investment in America from this largesse, most of us are still waiting. I wonder if the top 400 richest people, who according to the IRS pay just 17 percent of income in tax, even know how wealthy they are or how sorely their country needs their money, and so little of it overall.
We are now a country of union against non-union, private worker versus public, fighting over the leftovers, squeezed by the ever inflation of the supermarket, gas pump and taxes. With so many jobs lost, with scarce re-investment, there are fewer people left to pay the bills. This, in turn, increases unemployment and reduces spending, in a vicious cycle not even noticed by the rich. Only their handlers know how much they have in the bank, which they also own.
Now, the rich alone have not caused our stagnation. Some politicians, even of eloquence, fail to serve. Common sense too often is bested by personal irresponsibility. The government must do much but cannot do it all, and what it does must be for need and investment, not special interest.
Logic tells us that if the economy doubled in GNP since 1980, surely the middle class would be larger. Yet every day hundreds turn in their identity card, in a democracy long built on a vibrant, growing middle class and its aspirations, its solidity, its buying power. Where can democracy be headed without a large and strong middle class? It has been our greatest frontier, the frontier of hope. It is why we send our young on to further education, why we take pride in the doctor in the family.
Where are we in America, we sons and daughters of liberty, of immigrants, of factory workers and hardscrabble farmers? It is 2011, and the worry lines are deepening in our faces.