New York Times, Bob Herbert
In his last column for the NYT, Bob Herbert hits the nail on the head regarding the American Dream — it ain’t for the ‘small people’ anymore. We all know it, we all feel it, but Bob Herbert puts it down in words that sear into the soul.
Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.
This is the America I’m leaving to my men: A lifetime of $9-$10 per hour jobs (if they’re lucky), during which they will never realize any possible dream of a home, family, vacations, or retirement.
Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations.
The youth of this country had no way of knowing that the high school summer job, or the job they held in college for extra cash, was quite likely the best they were going to have.
If we listen to the politicians in this country, we will find out that this country is “broke.” There just isn’t any more money for job creation, schools, or public sector wages. Sorry folks, the piggy bank is empty…or is it…?
There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.
Did you read that last sentence? Read it again…“the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007…”
Yes, you read that right. The top 10% — the people who don’t even need a raise — received ALL of the income growth between 2000 and 2007. All of it.
I am just…speechless.
To my men, their generation, and beyond, I give you an apology…
I am so very sorry about the condition in which you receive this country. Even though there is no excuse for it, I must admit that I didn’t see it coming. I really had no idea that by the time I was reaching my own age of majority, the American Dream was dead, and the looting of the corpse had commenced. The elites had killed it stone dead, and we had no idea until recently, and now I’m truly afraid we will not be able to turn the tide before we hand over the reins to you. I know in my heart that if we are able to mend this, even partially, we will do so. That’s my promise to you.
I’m sorry it couldn’t be more…
Overwhelming imbalances in wealth and income inevitably result in enormous imbalances of political power. So the corporations and the very wealthy continue to do well. The employment crisis never gets addressed. The wars never end. And nation-building never gets a foothold here at home.
New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed.
We will do our best.
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