The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 1, 2014

What kind of country do we want to be?


The Daily Item

— In a recent column by Charles Lane there is a sentence that caught my attention. “But U.S. public opinion remains relatively indifferent to the income inequality, even after the Great Recession’s harsh lessons for the middle class about economic insecurity.” While some are leaning this lesson, too many fail to realize we are becoming distinctly two nations; those who have much more than their share and those who struggle just to meet basic needs, a disparity much like many third world nations. Many fail to realize that they and their children may fall into the nation that struggles. Many are too self-centered in their outlook to be concerned about their fellow citizens. Too many support political leaders whose only concern is for the richer of these two nations. There are many who will never have enough no matter what level of wealth they attain.

This is a divide that has been an accelerating problem for more 40 years. The Reagan years of trickledown economics gave a big push to this trend. Few crumbs have trickled down. Since 1980, productivity has steadily increased as wages for workers have stayed level. The wealth created by increased productivity has gone only to the top. Policies which cut taxes for the rich and created corporate tax loopholes while cutting programs that help average Americans is another major factor in this trend. The loss of unions and a stagnant minimum wage have pushed many down the economic ladder while incomes of the top grow astronomically.

Democracy can’t function when there is such a wide income distribution in a country. We also are becoming a corporate state as corporate money controls more of our regulatory bodies and the politicians who write our laws. We are no longer a government of, by, and for the people, but a government whose role has become a handmaiden of the corporations. The Constitution states that our government exists to promote the general welfare, not corporate welfare.

The current fight to reduce funding for the SNAP (food stamps) program illustrates very clearly what is happening. The Republicans are fighting to reduce funding for food stamps. They don’t think children need to be feed; 47 percent of food stamp beneficiaries are children. I guess they should have picked more affluent parents. Many of their parents work full-time and even multiple jobs but they are being exploited by the Walmarts of the world. Little money for the bottom and lots for the top.

The same politicians who fight for SNAP reductions fight increases to the minimum wage. While they fight to cut funding the 37 percent of the recipients who are elderly or disabled, they want to give billions in the same farm bill to wealthy corporate farms.

It boils down to what kind of country do we want to be? Do we want a country that has compassion for all our fellow Americans or do we want to be a country that frames everything in terms of “I” and “me.”

Jack D. Miller,

Center Township, Snyder County