There has been much written lately about the growing income inequality in this country. The attitude of many, particularly on the right, is so what?
The so what is political; it is the need for a cohesive populace loyal to America. The better off people are the more likely they are to feel connected to American ideals and government. The poor, the resentful, the believers the political and economic systems are irrevocably rigged against them, are likely to shed their willingness to support this country and its government. Add enough people to these groups and you have a dangerous mix of anger and resentment in too many people, people ripe for any radical political movement promising to topple the corrupt elements of American political and economic elites.
We are not a ethnic nation; we are unified by ideals and not by blood. When life drains of hope and we lose our faith in American exceptionalism – our American Dream – we have nothing to fall back on. We aren’t French, or German, or Italian; our history of national identity is relatively short and the war that forged our true identity was not with some other ethnic or religious group but with ourselves.
The political right trumpets “free markets”. Whatever the markets’ economic efficiencies, they can also divide us along economic lines, lines that many see as arbitrary and drawn as much by the luck of birth and chance as by enterprise and industriousness. Mitt Romny, whatever his business acumen, prospered thanks in large part because of his family, its wealth and the advantages and opportunities they afforded him. If he had been born black, poor, his rise obstructed by poor education, the fractures of family, and inner city violence, he chances of success would have been tiny.
We are a nation of three hundred million people, not of corporations. Our national goals should seek much more than economic efficiencies. The general welfare must embrace the welfare of all of us. If it does not, if we do not act together to bind up the nation’s wounds, we may find our Americanism so diluted in so many of us we may cease to be a nation at all.
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