I don’t love Starbucks, but their CEO Howard Schultz got it right in his full page ad in the July 1st edition of the Wall Street Journal
“….in our nation’s capital, our elected leaders…put ideology over real solutions. I love America, but we all know something is wrong. The deficits this country must reconcile are much more than financial, and our inability to solve our own problems is sapping our national spirit. We are better than this. America’s history has shown that we have accomplished extraordinary things when we act collectively, with courage, creativity, and generosity of spirit-especially during trying times…..Let’s tell our government leaders to put partisanship aside and to speak truthfully about the challenges we face….as citizens, let’s all get more involved. Please, don’t be a bystander. Understand we have a shared responsibility in solving our nation’s problems. We can’t wait for Washington.”
I can’t say it much better. What Mr. Schultz calls for in Washington is the same remedy we need in Arizona.
I have five insights to share about America, Arizona, education, and our politics:
- Insight 1: The vanishing middle class
- Insight 2: Losing connection in a connected world
- Insight 3: Priority One in a common sense world
- Insight 4: Our legislature is broken: An example
- Insight 5: Public school criticism and the business model
The vanishing middle class
Raised by two working parents in the late 40’s and early 50’s with a favorite meal of bread and brown gravy, I had no idea that was all my parents could afford until they shared that little pearl with me after I turned 20. Maybe that accounts for my fairly simple way of thinking about economics. To me, the perfect illustration of a happy and robust America looks just like the Pillsbury Doughboy. A small number of rich, a huge middle class, and a small number of poor (please note, the Doughboy has tiny feet).
From a wealth perspective, today’s America doesn’t look at all like the Doughboy. Unfortunately, to accurately imagine how wealth is distributed in America you need to picture the Space Needle in Seattle.
In October, 2010, Bruce Watson of Daily Finance quoted his colleague, Charles Hugh Smith, as noting that “the top 20% of the American populace holds roughly 93% of the country’s financial wealth, and the top 1% of the country holds 43% of the money in the US. Meanwhile, the group from 40-80% holds a mere 6% of the country’s total assets. While disturbing, even this minuscule share of the wealth pie dwarfs the bottom 40% of the country, who control less than 1% of the wealth.”
In short, 80% of America’s population has only 7% of the wealth.
Heck, I’ve worked my rear off all my life to become an upper-middle class guy and now I feel worse than I did before I started writing this. Isn’t it shocking that 80% of our population holds only 7% of our country’s wealth?
In my mind, America was, and is, at its best when our middle class is large and employable; I think most agree with that thought. However, our middle class, as we have known it, hasn’t just decreased, it’s dropping like a rock. Vanishing.
When the middle class decreases, the costs of welfare increase, prison populations increase, emergency room visits increase, violence increases, incidence of abuse of all kinds increases, the need for social services increase, social security contributions decrease, confidence in our way of life decreases, and our economy falters.
The United States has quickly become a country of haves and have-nots; even if few of our politicians from either major party want to talk with us directly about it or say it that way. (Note: I wrote this in February, middle class is now discussed daily.)
It doesn’t seem logical that we can continue for long in this way. The only answer, one our forefathers clearly understood, is to educate our way to a large middle class. We can do that, but to do so different Choices must be made.