President Obama gave a speech today in Osawatomie, KS. That speech mostly had to do with the growing inequality between the rich and the poor, the shrinking middle class, and the threat such inequality poses to the American Dream of personal achievement.
While the President didn't come right out and say this, the premise of his speech is that we are at a teetering point in this country. It's been a long time coming, and some might argue that we're not quite there yet, but the fact is we are facing or will face a defining moment in the near future. This is not just a slogan for this election being recycled from an old election. This is the truth. The wealth gap in America today is wider than ever. We have new evidence today that the main culprits of the financial crisis will be getting off scot-free while the rest of us are in danger of being thrown out of our homes or jailed because we are speaking out. There is a serious imbalance of power, privilege, wealth, and even freedom. Depending on what sources you find and who you listen to, the cause of this is very different. Some say it is corporate elitists, others that its liberals or conservatives or anarchists. The fact is, however, that we are approaching a point where great change is going to occur. The only questions are, who will effect that change, and what will the result be.
I honestly believe that the majority of our representatives on both sides of the aisle are having strings pulled for this kind of gridlock and debate we are seeing. I believe that the corporate powers are directly influencing many in Congress to push towards a plutocracy where the rich are deified and the poor are demonized. I believe that, if we elect a Republican to office in the next term and allow them to pass their expressed plans into law, that we will see the wholesale destruction of our American way of life.
Why do I believe this? Because the only thing that has ever been done for the poor in America is the social safety net. Those programs are the only thing that keep millions of people fed, clothed, clean, and healthy. Though they work hard, arguably harder than anyone else, their efforts are in vain because of the system of upward wealth mobility. Money and power constantly condenses at the top, leaving less at the bottom. There is no exchange here, no conscious decision to give up wealth and representation. It is simply a matter of course in our society today. The policies outlined by those on the Republican side are intended to dismantle this safety net, to cripple government representation and protection for millions of Americans, to give more power and privilege to the wealthy. The poor have been given little over the years, including little incentive to better themselves. Saying that you must let them fall to teach them to fly is poor logic if they were never built to fly in the first place.
I honestly believe that the ultimate result of a conservative plan at this point would be the creation of a permanent under-class in America. A class for whom education is out of reach, health care is too expensive, luxuries are dreams, and work for the minimum wage is the only thing they receive. I honestly believe this because it is the logical conclusion to the ideas put forth by conservatives over the past decade. NCLB condenses the best students with the most resources into privately owned for-profit schools while the lowest-performing students are herded into public classrooms and given fewer resources to work with. The disparity in education will inevitably lead to the complete privatization of our education system, at which point, education will become a commodity and a luxury that not everyone can afford.
I honestly believe that the middle class will disappear within ten years and will become a part of the lower-working classes. I believe that business owners will rely more and more on cheaper labor and will no longer provide high-paying jobs. I believe that many companies will begin to change their nature (indeed already have) so that they no longer have to rely on demand or supply as is needed now, but will survive solely on governemt subsidy. That subsidy would come from the lower classes, who would be taxed "fairly", that is at the same rate as those who make hundreds or even thousands of times more money than they do. I believe that companies will soon no longer produce anything intended for the poor, allowing them to simply wallow in their degredation.
I know this is a bleak picture. I know that some of these things may never happen. But I see them as the ultimate conclusion of these policies as clearly as I see the words I write here. I see that we are headed toward great change, and whether that change will result in power shifting to the hands of the few or the many, it is coming just the same. I know many believe differently, believe we are on the cusp of complete governmental control of our lives. To be honest, that is a scary scenario as well. It could be the case that the government is on the brink of taking over the private sector, is swallowing up businesses and private industry alike. It might be the case that regulations are forms of control and that they are how the government will force us all to be exactly the same. I can see where people get these ideas, and I see that they are scary. But I also see how the things that spark these ideas are consistently dismantled. Regulations are constantly being cut. the laws that govern Washington are constantly being questioned. More and more power is being given to the private sector, and there is no backpedaling it. The government is in a constant state of flux, its powers and presiders always changing, but the slow, steady granting of power to corporations and special interests is constant, unrestrained, and unstoppable at this point.
The powers that be are the powers that bind us all. When one American is held captive by the system, we are all held captive. When one is exploited, we're all exploited. We are in this together, and it is only by sharing the burden and the reward that we will have a strong, united populace once more. Evidence abounds of the importance of the middle class to the economy, not job creators. We must foster the development of that which makes us unique: people who live in the middle. We can, we must, and we will do this.