Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Looking for the Good Life

The right will call it "class warfare" but Kevin Drum at Mother Jones sums up pretty succinctly what the current situation, at least economically, is in the U.S.
This isn't just a matter of social justice. It's a matter of facing reality. If we want a strong economy, we can only get it over the long term if we figure out a way for the benefits of economic growth to flow to everyone, not just the rich. This is, by far, Barack Obama's biggest economic challenge. Until median wages start rising steadily and consistently, we haven't gotten ourselves back on track.
The thing is, and it is hard to understand, that most of America doesn't seem to understand that if we are going to continue to provide a good life for ourselves, our children and their children then there are going to have to be some fundamental changes in how things work.

I surely don't have all the answers but I do know that part of what has to happen in the country is that we have to rethink what the "good life" means. One of the most glaring problems is that we have been taught that the "good life" is a personal measurement. By that I mean we have been educated to believe that as long as I and my immediate family have a roof over our heads, food at every meal, most of the toys we want, and all the other superficial things that have come to define us, then all is cool. We are not taught that the true "good life" is, or should be, a collective measurement. Does everyone in my community, state or country have a secure place to live? Does everyone have enough good food to eat? Does everyone have health care? Does everyone that can have somewhere to work that pays a fair wage and id reasonably secure? Currently, the answer to each of these questions is a resounding NO.

How do we get there? Again, I don't have all the answers but here are some suggestions. National single payer health care that includes everyone, not just the people lucky enough to have a job with benefits. Higher minimum wage. A better educational system. More progressive taxation. A rethinking of national defense. An energy policy that is not insane. A return to sustainable agriculture. And, most of all, a massive cultural awakening to what a truly healthy, progressive and enlightened society should be. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.

The disparity between the wealthy in this country and the rest of us is staggering and it is going to have to change. The wealthy in this country, while they control far and away most of the wealth in the country, cannot, by themselves support a truly healthy and vibrant economy. For decades most of the strides made in this country in productivity and the resulting wealth have flowed into the pockets of a tiny minority of the population and while you can call it "class warfare" until you are blue in the face the reality is that until this changes and the wealth of this country is more evenly distributed we are going to continue our spiral into a second rate nation. I am not arguing that everyone should receive the same, just that the gap between the haves and have nots gets narrowed pretty brutally. They rich can still be rich just not so much.

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