When I was young, I wasn’t interested in politics. What others thought didn’t concern me. I studied economics in college, and I thought I understood the world! The future looked bright.
My viewpoints have changed!
Why people think the way they do fascinates me now.
Over time, I learned there is very little about the economy, I understand.
Finally, the future looks more uncertain.
Are we in crisis?
Things have been much worse (Civil War), but we’re a long way from working together towards solutions.
Why are times so toxic?
I believe extreme income inequality and a loss of faith in the future are key factors.
Since the onset of the previous economic crisis in 2008, average wages have increased by 13%. That’s good, except a grocery basket of Wal*Mart items is up 32%, health care costs are up 43%, and State college tuition is up 170%. Many point to the stock market as a bright spot in the economy; it’s more than doubled. But families outside the wealthiest 20% only represent 8% of market wealth.*
Income inequality has increased to the highest level in over a hundred years. A few people thrive while the majority struggle to make ends meet. The pandemic puts an exclamation point on this.
The future doesn’t seem as bright to many young people. The dominant service sector fails to pay a living wage; good job prospects require a college degree, college degrees require mortgage-sized loans.
In 1966, Martin Luther King Jr., while condemning violence, told CBS interviewer Mike Wallace, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” I think he was right.
During the same period, Dylan sang: “It’s a hard rain a-gonna fall”! That seems to be replaying now.
We need a course correction:
Today, opposing sides believe their views matter more than the collective good. That needs to change. Our country faces significant problems. We won’t solve them unless we agree to work together. My greatest concern is that I don’t see many signs of that today.
If electing politicians were like playing the game Scrabble, I would dump the whole tray of letters and get new ones.
Still, I am not as pessimistic as that sounds. The so-called “Greatest Generation” emerged from the ruins of The Great Depression and World War II. Perhaps a new Greatest Generation is practicing distanced learning today. I choose to believe that.
In the meantime, we have our work cut out for us.
Here is how we can all help.
The next time we are tempted to lash out at “the other side,” we should hold our thoughts and ask the question. “How could we work together, despite our differences, to improve our country.”
Next week, one party is going to win the Presidential election, leaving half of the country angry. Regardless of the outcome, maybe we should just lay down our swords, and in the words of singer-songwriter Tom Waits, “get behind the mule and plow!”
More information, references, and a library of previous posts can be found on my website at http://tim-coats.com
*Statistics from Pew Research and Thepeoplehistory.com