American life is rapidly reflecting the social strata of nineteenth-century Britain, in which you are ordained to do what your father did. What once was a social ladder has morphed into a greased landing where one false step sends citizens to the very bottom with little hope of rising again.
When the structure collapses, culpability won’t matter. Obama may be a quasi-socialist, but he is right in identifying problems of an immobile middle class, of Midas-worthy wealth which comes from nonproductive activities, and the growing threat of a permanent underclass that has no access to self-betterment.
Recently Obama asked, “Can we succeed as a country where a shrinking number of people do exceedingly well while a growing number struggle to get by?” He characterized this as “the defining question of our time.”
I couldn’t agree more. Obama is right a good deal of the time in what he says. The difficulty arises in some cases from what he does, but in most cases from what he doesn’t do.
It is easy to criticize those without healthcare, but no one earning minimum wage can afford both healthcare and food. It was facile to ridicule people who took “home improvement” mortgages during the housing bubble, but millions were strongly encouraged to do so by everyone from bankers to politicians to the Federal Reserve Chairman himself. The most “foolish” thing about these people is they were naïve enough to trust their government. From drywall hangers to computer specialists, everyone is now forced to compete against Mexicans, Indians, and all other parties who can infiltrate the country or inveigle an H-1B visa.
The gorge separating haves from have-nots is becoming a gouge in our country, and the wound is more infected daily. It must be addressed, and soon. The lower and middle classes are suffering, and more often than the well-off care to admit, this is due to policies and practices over which sufferers have no control. But Obama’s idea of intensive surgery is to purchase more ambulances. He acts as if the best way to mend someone else’s broken leg is to amputate yours.
If overseas overextension, an imperial judiciary, and class conflict are our most pressing issues, I can’t think of many ways to make them worse.
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