In another great article, Paul Krugman explains how our unlevel playing field, from birth on, is causing some major issues for our society.
As Krugman points out at the beginning, the idea of "equal opportunity" has been somewhat hijacked. First, it has been associated with "equal outcomes" which is the opposite concept. Equal outcomes is equivalent to income redistribution, and putting everyone at the same level, regardless of how much they work or not. "Equal Opportunity," on the other hand, has to do with ensuring that everyone starts at the same place, has equal chance of success, and is not limited by their environments. As the article points out, this is a theory that is vocally favored by everyone, but has not been supported politically.
The example from the article is Mitt Romney, whose quote at the beginning is what kicks of the discussion. Mitt, along with the Republican establishment, have consistently said that they are for equal opportunity, that everyone should have the chance to succeed from the beginning. However, their political record has proven them false. They consistently vote to slash funding that helps low-income families, slash funding to education and health services, slash funding for voucher programs, and sweeten the deal for the financially well-off. In addition, they continually rail against policies, such as the Health Care Reform Law, that help to level the playing field for everyone.
As Krugman, and many others besides, have pointed out before now, we are the only developed country that does not have a universal health care system. It is our health care, combined with fewer services for needy families, less education, less economic support, and greater disparity of wealth, that have created a huge disadvantage for the disadvantaged.
historical evidence has shown, time and again, that a smaller wealth gap, a vibrant middle class, and equal opportunities are what drive major economic growth. When we allow the rich to have all the benefits and the poor to have nothing, we end up with the system we're approaching now, where moving up in the world is a pipe dream, and where those who start at the bottom have no choice but to stay there. It is the how America was in the 1900's, and is what we have evolved away from for the better part of a century. Now, with economic crisis, continual disintegration of social programs, and a campaign to solidify the classes of society, we are once again headed towards a society, not of equals, but of servants and masters.