The Great Divide
William Randolph Hearst
Hat in hand, peasants are lined up along a dusty road as the wealthy land owner appears in a beautiful horse draw carriage to check with his foreman about the current situation on the plantation. The location may be any of a number of countries where the few have the most and the most have the least. Any country, that is, except the United States of America. There is, however, a dangerous trend in the economy of this country which threatens to alter our image. A number of research centers have published reports which reveal a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots. The well-being of a capitalist system such as ours is based on a thriving middle class. There does not seem to be an "Evil Emperor Ming" in this problem, but rather the challenge to adjust to global economic factors and to the impact of technology on the job market. Computers will cause the loss of millions of jobs currently held by humans.
We are in a race between computers and people – and we need to make sure that people win.
Former CEO of Google
In my elder years, I have the luxury of picking and choosing the technologies that I wish to engage in and the ones that I wish to leave quite alone. This is not the condition of young Americans preparing to enter the job market today. These young men and women not only need to be competent in modern technologies, but may be called upon to bring their expertise to teach those technologies to their employers. Parents who want their children to be employable have to become partners with educators and the job creators in the business world. Answers to this task of how to structure an educational system that meets the needs of the twenty-first century are up for debate, but time is running out. In addition, our government has to prove that they can resolve the problems of our national budget and the allocation of funds that will produce real growth and address to growing economic inequality among our population.
Inequality matters for lots of reasons: it makes countries less economically and financially stable, it dampens growth by keeping wages and spending low, and it reduces social mobility. It also just makes us feel bad. Behavioral economics tells us that our sense of well-being isn't absolute but rather is pegged to how the Joneses are doing. That's why it is no surprise that a new Pew study found that fewer and fewer Americans identify themselves as middle class. Yes, we have a recovery, but it is a bifurcated one. There are jobs for Ph.Ds and burger flippers but not so much in between.
Time to Talk About the I Word
Time Magazine, February 10, 2014
Pope Francis I has placed the case for the poor and the understanding of the use of wealth as an instrument to better the state of all of humanity. This is a call for financial support of such processes relating to corporate commitment to Research and Development, emphasis on those academic disciplines that reach the goal of increased employment, and the awareness of a population that supports the importance of a value system, educational curriculum, and character formation that yields a sound and functioning society. As the belief within a population that its institutions offer real equality of opportunity, an increasingly moral society can result.
Identifying problems and finding solutions have been a part of all ages and peoples. Although the remedies for the variety of social and economic ills may not be readily apparent, we can have confidence in the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional strength and perseverance of the American people. No matter what century or epoch within which one exists, there remains an American dream and a sacred trust that enlightens a people and guides their way. Remembering who we are and how gifted we are as children of God unites our identity and by a communal effort we can close even a great divide.