A lot of people are worried about where we are as a nation right now. We are a divided nation, but I haven’t lost hope yet that we can find common ground. This is not a unique situation in our history. In my lifetime alone we were a nation divided over civil rights for African-Americans and the war in Viet Nam. It was pretty bitter back then, and the rhetoric was just as heated. I guess having a sense of history helps keep me hopeful, but there are some differences that might be critical in America of 2012 compared to America 1967.
For one thing, in the 60s there was a healthy middle class – the direct result of the ascendance of organized labor and the availability of a college education. This meant that people had a lot to lose and even more to gain by solving problems instead of arguing politics. It was possible then for a parent to expect their child to be better off. In years since the “Reagan Revolution” there has been a “trickle” of sorts – a trickle of wealth flowing to the wealthiest that has now become a flood of wealth becoming concentrated in to very few people. The U.S. now has the most wealth concentrated into the fewest people of any Industrialized Democracy, and one of the least economically mobile economies of any industrialized country in the world.
You would have a better chance of bettering your family in places like India, Denmark, Finland, Canada, China (that’s right folks, Communist China provides a greater opportunity for intergenerational upward mobility).
In fact, 80% of all Americans are earning less today on an inflation-adjusted basis than they did in 1980. Is it a coincidence that countries with “socialist” government structures (such as all of the Scandinavian countries) are doing better by their people than we are? Talking about an historical perspective… what happen to other political systems when wealth was so unevenly and unjustly concentrated and there is little hope for upward mobility?