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April 6, 2015 9:50 AM Age: 5 yrs

It’s Not the Economy, It’s the Narrative, Stupid!

Category: AC - Billboard, AC RSS, GPG Commentary & Opinion, Larry Checco, ESG Highlights, ESG Highlighted Commentary
Source:  Larry Checco, featured columnist

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Ever ask yourself why low- and moderate-income voters would elect politicians who consistently work to reduce taxes on the wealthiest among us when those same politicians counterbalance the loss in tax revenues by slashing public programs and services that benefit the vast majority of Americans—especially them, the least economically and socially advantaged?

I have.  And just recently the answer came to me:  It’s not the economy; it’s the Narrative, stupid!

It’s the Narrative that’s been steadily drummed into our heads for decades.  But instead of advancing us as a nation, it has warped our sense of the American Dream and taken perverse advantage of our nature to be optimistic.

It’s a Narrative that says if you can’t make it in this country, it’s your fault, not the systems.  It’s exclusionary, not inclusive.  You’re either a taker, or a maker.

It’s a Narrative that is reinforced when someone like Senator Marco Rubio can say that America has “never been a nation of haves and have-nots.  We are a nation of haves and soon-to-haves”, never once mentioning that the trickle-down theory he and his ilk so cherish has had more than 30 years to make us “soon-to-haves” have—and failed miserably!

It’s a Narrative that is disingenuously bolstered when columnist George Will can write an op ed piece titled “Income inequality is good”, and go on to say that “Americans…get a raise when they shop at the stores that made Sam Walton a billionaire,” never once mentioning that in 2012 Forbes reported that just six Walmart heirs have as much wealth as 42 percent of all Americans—or that a significant percentage of Walmart employees rely on tax-payer funded social services to make ends meet.  Corporate welfare at its best—or worst!

It’s a Narrative that says let’s ignore the folks on Wall Street who make millions, and  who gave themselves a $28.5 BILLION in bonuses in 2014 for their good, honest, hard work—and lest we forget, nearly destroyed our economy 7 years ago.  Instead, let’s focus our attention on those greedy teachers who make a whopping $60,000 a year to educate and care for our kids in so many other ways, and let’s reward them by stripping away their collective bargaining rights.

It’s a Narrative legitimized by ostensibly one of our most venerated institutions, the U.S. Supreme Court, when the court ruled that corporations are the same as people and that money equates to free speech—which, if honestly interpreted, means that wealthy people get to buy a lot more “free” speech than the rest of us.

It’s a Narrative that turns a blind eye to cannibalistic capitalism—i.e. payday lending, horrendous subprime home mortgage loans, revolving credit card debt, etc.—all of which are legal (ethical, not so much) but end up devouring people’s ability to get ahead financially.

It’s a Narrative financed by big, well-heeled special interest groups that shamelessly purchase our politicians on both sides of the aisle.  (You’d be hard pressed to convince me that if you financed my political campaign to the tune of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars that I wouldn’t feel I owed you something when your Armani-clad lobbyists come knocking on my congressional door.)    

Okay, stop, you say. 

A lot of people don’t necessarily only vote their pockets, but vote their social conscience, as well.  They’ve bought into that part of the Narrative that says we live in “a culture of life.”  They’re for strong family values and against contraceptive birth control and abortions, even when a woman has been raped.

Then these same voters should inform those they elect that life doesn’t end at birth.  These very same kids they want so badly to enter into the world need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, educated, given health care and a proper chance to succeed in this great nation of ours.

In his latest book, “Our Kids”, Harvard social scientist, Robert Putnam, who also gave us “Bowling Alone,” argues that kids who live in families in which parents are not college educated are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to economic and social upward mobility, and that ever-widening income inequality only exacerbates the situation. 

“Universal early childhood education offers a high payback rate,” says Putnam.  But it’s just these types of programs the Narrative says we need to cut to help balance the budget.

The saddest part of this entire Narrative is that our unique brand of optimism keeps us in check, keeps us from changing the Narrative.

Most Americans believe our economic system unfairly favors the wealthy, but 60 percent believe that most people can make it if they are willing to work hard, according to Pew Research.  Other research tells us that Americans far overestimate the amount of upward mobility that actually exists in our society.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) says the game is rigged.  I’ll go one step further and say that many have bought the rigging hook, line and sinker.  That’s why we’re trapped in it.

We need to change the rigging, correct the Narrative, if we have any hope of this ship of state sailing into the 21st century in such a way that benefits all aboard.  And we better do it before this ship runs aground!

Larry Checco

© 2015

 

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