Greed Overshadows Hope in Economy

Country headed in the wrong direction? Somebody seems to think so. According to the results of a national poll the vast majority of the electorate is sour on the economy and the direction of the country. dadd2e52-92cc-4bfd-ad3f-ee6217a4ad02


The poll was conducted by USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times using Survey Monkey, an online survey company with over 3 million respondents. 70% of those polled said that they feel the country is headed in the wrong direction. The twelfth year in a row that a majority of the electorate has felt this way. “This is the longest period of sustained pessimism (that we have experienced) in more than a generation,” Neil Newhouse, a veteran Republican who advised Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012, told the LA Times.

It’s worth noting that the current national unemployment rate is sitting at 5.1 percent, the lowest level since since April 2008, and the economy has produced positive hiring figures since the recession officially ended in June 2009. Gas prices are currently at an eight year low nationally and more than a dollar a gallon less expensive than they were one year ago.

So what gives? What’s the source of all of this anxiety? People are feeling pessimistic because they think the game is rigged. And they’re right. Our system rewards success but it’s designed for failure.

Right now, the United States is the most prosperous country in the history of the world. The stock market is at an all time high and has been riding a wave of prosperity that has extended for the last six years. Meanwhile, half of all private sector employees don’t even have a company 401K program. The average worker retires with less than 50K in assets. Wages have been flat for the last forty years. The average worker had more disposable income in 1968 than he has today.

Meanwhile, 20% of our children live in poverty, the highest rate of child poverty of any industrialized nation in the world. Does this sound like the type of prosperity that anyone would envy?

Tax collection — the price we pay for an organized society — is at an all time low. The marginal tax rate for our wealthiest citizens is 36%. President Obama lost the battle over taxes. He had the audacity to suggest that our wealthiest citizens should pay 39%. Most millionaires pay a lower marginal tax rate than their personal secretaries. 400 families have more accumulated wealth than the bottom 50% of the entire country. (Michael Moore says 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans. Politifact Wisconsin in partnership with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel March 10th, 2011.) Is it any wonder that the average worker feels like the government doesn’t make life better for him? How can a man be optimistic when he can’t even remember the last time he saw a raise?

So, what’s at the root of all of this? The culprit is greed. Pure and simple. The reason why we have so much dysfunction in our political process is because we haven’t really answered a fundamental question about who we are as people. We need to decide if we want to have a me society or a we society. It’s simple as that. Do we want to reward the wealthy and the powerful or do we want to have a functioning democracy?

In his farewell address to the American public, President Dwight Eisenhower warned about the dangers of complacency and said that politics should be the part time profession of every American citizen. In the mid term elections of 2014 we had a national voter participation rate of 36.3%. (Voter Turnout in Midterm Elections reaches a 72 year low. November 10th, 2014) The only time it had ever been lower was during WWII when half of our citizens were stationed abroad.

There are things we know. We know that nobody that works full time should be living in poverty. We know that every American should be entitled to a job that offers a level of personal dignity and that pays a living wage with an opportunity for advancement. We know that every American should be entitled to quality health care. We know that every American should be entitled to pursue a quality education and that he should have the means to do so. We know all of these things but we don’t demand them. Throughout history the only way that things have ever changed is through civic engagement and grassroots activism. People speaking truth to power and taking their message out into the streets. Everything must be fought for and protected. Nothing can be taken for granted.

We have serious problems in this country and the biggest problem we face is a crisis of confidence. The inability to come together to fight for and protect a shared set of values.

There needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we do business. We have an exclusive society that is predicated on keeping people out, and retaining the status quo. Why is that we have a record number of unfilled jobs when half of the working population would like to change their careers? Why is it that every entry level job calls for three years of experience in the exact same industry? Why is it that in almost every instance, for the last thirty years, when a man loses his job because of downsizing he ends up with one that pays less? Why is it that despite sending a record number of people to college over the last twenty years that graduation rates haven’t budged? Why is that so many entry level jobs require internship experience and why do so many interns end up working for little and no wages? The culprit is greed.

We have an exclusive society which is predicated on limiting opportunity and keeping people down because there is an entrenched belief that there is only a finite amount of opportunity to begin with instead of the notion that there is opportunity to go around. It’s a downfall in our thinking, and until we decide that we want to have an inclusive society where everyone is entitled to a hand out and a leg up, well; we’ll continue to experience the corruption and downfall of a once proud democracy.


OpinionJacob HirsohnComment