By Arthur H. Gunther III
I am an ordinary fellow living an ordinary retirement after an ordinary upbringing and an ordinary career. And that is my issue: the great gift of ordinariness that America has long offered but which now seems out of reach. Most Americans want to be ordinary, to live safe, productive lives in health and happiness, to leave the moving and shaking to others. Ordinariness is the hum of the middle class, which itself is the well-tuned, durable engine that protects democracy, that grows the economy, that offers stability. And today it is sputtering.
When was the last time America smiled? There are tears in the households where the unemployed sit, where new college graduates cannot begin careers, where those who were taught by successful parents to buy into the American Dream see it dashed in an economy built by the 20th century middle class but now controlled by special interests in the 21st.
The many in America today know that Congress and the presidency are broken systems hampered by pettiness and no grand vision. Great change must come if the nation is to survive. Lobbies for greed, for power, for the extreme left and extreme right of political ideology rule the roost, and the people’s voice must rise in volume against them.
So that is the issue: how to again nurture the middle class in all its ordinariness, which is also its brilliance, America’s leitmotif. It is the stability of the masses being ordinary that allows others to invent, to be pioneers, to chase the frontier.
Could change come by requiring public financing of campaigns with no special-interest money allowed? Maybe then the nation, free of lobby, would decide what sort of financial and educational investment, health care, pension system and social service network a progressive world leader must have and how to pay for all that without massive debt and with individual responsibility added to the wallet.
We must guarantee that America can be ordinary and so hum in progress once again.