America’s eternal quest
6/27/2012, 8:34 a.m.
America’s eternal quest
Every Fourth of July public buildings are adorned with patriotic bunting and fireworks to commemorate the anniversary of the nation’s Declaration of Independence. Citizens have to be pleased with the enormous development of the United States since 1776.
Over the years the concept of what constitutes “Americanism” has changed. In the beginning it was acceptable that only property owners could vote, slavery was permitted and female suffrage was denied. None of those ideas now survive with the support of the law.
The United States learned in the Civil War that opposing opinions on public policy issues can perpetually divide a nation’s ethos. The victory of the North maintained the union and ended legally sanctioned slavery but it did not establish equality for former slaves. Nonetheless, African Americans have demonstrated extraordinary loyalty and patriotism to the United States despite the racial discrimination imposed upon them.
The continuing battles for civil rights and women’s rights indicate that the definition of “Americanism” is a work in progress. However, the nature of the conflict is undergoing a change from race and gender, to rich vs. poor. That is actually what the underlying conflict has been all along. Plantation owners needed free labor. Indentured Europeans and Native Americans did not work out as well in the fields as Africans who were so far from home.
There has been a major game changer in this conflict. Young Americans have graduated from college with no jobs and oppressive debt. The American Dream that with hard work anyone can strike gold is no longer appealing as opportunities diminish.
The well-educated but dispossessed note that the average household income of the top 1 percent of U.S. earners has grown by 275 percent in recent decades while the income of the 99 percent below has flatlined. This disparity diminishes the opportunity for success in pursuing the American Dream to no greater than winning the lottery.
As a result there is a growing concern about how government programs care for those who try for something big but fall short. The political campaigns of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will set forth opposing approaches for the country to achieve general prosperity. The Republicans want to cut taxes and public benefits while the Democrats want the very rich to pay a tax rate equivalent to what the working class pays, even while entitlements are reduced and made more efficient.
The coming presidential election will redefine what constitutes “Americanism.” Is it time for the devotion to so-called “rugged individualism” to give way to greater involvement by government imposing rules and regulations to protect the public interest? Or is the U.S. to provide special treatment of the wealthy in the hope that citizens will receive their “trickle down” economic benefits?
Conservatives will falsely insist that the battle is between socialism and capitalism. That is false because even the liberals do not want the government to own the businesses. However, every citizen has the right to insist that industrialists do not pollute the environment.
It is time for every patriot to begin the process of studying the issues involved in the November election. There is much to learn and time is short.