‘Big Lie’ destroying ‘American Dream’
There is a serious debate underlying the mean-spirited, shallow, attack ad presidential campaign this year. Unfortunately, even the terms of the discussion may remain hidden under the opaque fabric of the “Big Lie.”
The big lie is the conservative argument that all government is bad.
Under that rubric conservatives argue that we only need to reduce the size and cost of government in order to live happily even after and re-start the American Dream of social mobility.
The American Dream, the promise that hard work can bring about personal success and even wealth, is one that has empowered Americans for generations. This vision of economic success is founded in the historical development of the most vibrant, successful, middle class ever created.
Yet today that dream of social mobility is more likely to be found in Australia, or Canada, or Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden or Finland, where social upward economic mobility has a far greater chance for their citizens than Americans have now.
A recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development presents the facts of economic mobility, and those facts indicate that while the American Dream is in jeopardy here, it is thriving in these other Western democracies and on the Australian continent.
What do these economies have in common that is different from America?
All of them have social policies the American political Right would call “socialist.”
They each guarantee citizens health care, a policy that frees business start-ups from having to fear health crises for their families while building new careers.
They each have stronger union movements that fight for economic equality for the fruits of labor and seek to avoid the American plight of the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer American families.
Each of these nations has more generous welfare states, providing security for those in work transitions, skills training, and protection in times of economic hardship that occur even in highly productive lives.
In most of these nations there are deeper commitments to the relationship of labor to management, with strong apprenticeship programs and corporate participation in workers’ development and concern over workers issues and success.
And in all cases these nations levy higher taxes.
In American, where we have the lowest tax rates in 60 years, the smallest percentage of GDP committed to funding government in decades, and shrinking numbers of government employees, there is the Big Lie that prevents us from solving our debt and deficit crisis. It is the same Big Lie that is shrinking the American Dream while the dream prospers in these other nations.
The truth is we need Social Security after the end of private pension programs, the failure of 401K investments, and the loss of so much home retirement equity.
We need Medicare to insure that those who most need health care are not denied access to some of the worlds best health care.
And equally important we need to update our failing infrastructure to serve our global competitiveness.
Beyond these basics we also need to fund research efforts, efforts that have been shrinking in funding for decades if we are to remain competitive with nations dedicated to supporting research.
And the government must have a role in the infrastructure of our educational system, insuring our facilities, our student materials, and our use of educational technology allow every American child a full and fair chance to compete in the global economy.
This presidential election should be about the direction of the nation…are we moving even farther towards an economic elite, or are we to re-commit to a vibrant middle class with a living American Dream.
But first we need to stop telling the Big Lie.
Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.