Other Voices: America’s problems extend beyond partisanship
In the wake of Governor Schwartzenegger’s special election, perhaps now is a good time to pause and consider The Big Picture. Yes, our state has problems, and they need fixing. But our country is in serious trouble
The American public has been bombarded during this past year by various polls and surveys demonstrating that most of us believe “this country is heading in the wrong direction.” However, no one seems to have asked any of the respondents the all important question, “In what way?” My hunch is this response was equally prevalent among those on either side of the proverbial fence that separates the right from the left. No one is happy.
Republicans are miserable because they haven’t been able to cut taxes as much as they wanted to. Democrats are miserable because they haven’t been able to raise taxes. Republicans are mad at Democrats for “Bush bashing;”:Democrats are still angry at the way Republicans went after Bill Clinton. And the list goes on.
The big question still remains: In what way are we “heading in the wrong direction?” One way is our standing in the world. Isolationists can stop reading this paragraph because you don’t care about this issue, but most of us do. I am embarrassed to travel abroad, knowing what the rest of the world now thinks of our country and its leaders. When I travel to Europe this summer, I intend to wear a custom-made T-shirt with “I did not vote for George W. Bush” listed in six languages. It may not endear me to fellow travelers who vote Republican, but I’d hate for citizens of the countries I intend to visit to hold me in any way responsible for the current mess in Iraq. It’s humiliating.
And what about the economy? Another popular polling question asks, “Are you better off now than you were five years ago?” For most of us, the answer is a resounding NO! As a lifelong member of the middle class, I can tell you things have gone downhill for those on both the right and left sides of the fence. John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Group of mutual funds, paints a dismal picture. He retired as head of his company six years ago at the age of 76. He’s older than I am and obviously knows the stock market. I trust his judgment. He has spent the years since he retired bashing the industry he helped to build. In a recent Sacramento Bee article, he argues that our system has “undergone a pathological mutation into a new form of capitalism, where far too large a share of the rewards of investing is going to the managers.”
According to Mogul Bogle, “the typical chief executive, who was once making, 25 years ago, 42 times as much as the average worker, this year is making 340 times [as much].” In real dollars, this means if you work for a large corporation and make $40K a year, the head honcho is making $13,600,000.00. Does this disparity make sense? Why on earth does anyone need 13-1/2 million dollars a year?
I’m not suggesting we go Socialist and divide up everything evenly among us. Socialism has its own built-in problems that I don’t have time to go into here. But it does seem to me that we are “heading in the wrong direction” at break-neck speed. A quick review of history leading up to the Russian and French revolutions will tell you we’re in deep trouble. And if you’re not sure how important our standing is among other countries in the world, ask yourself what we would have done without our allies during World War II.
My personal hero, Teddy Roosevelt, was a Republican, and he must be turning in his grave at the current state of affairs. It’s clear to me that our problems go way beyond partisan politics.
We now have something called a Global Economy, and it’s bringing us closer to, and more dependent on, our neighbors every day. We need them, and they need us. But people in our own country”veterans, disabled, mentally ill, the working poor”are suffering, and our CEO’s won’t part with a penny of that 13-1/2 million to help them. And our leaders don’t seem to think we’ll ever need anyone else’s help again. Do we want to take that chance? Think about it.
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