December 29, 2013

Progress possible in new year

Will 2014 be a good year or a challenging year? That is up to us.

Challenges abound. We live in the Divided States of America, and the gap widens each year. For generations now, we have been in the unenviable position atop the global economic pecking order — unenviable because we suffer from the winner’s curse of complacency. Meanwhile, other nations covet our position and have been racing to push us from our perch.

2014 could be pivotal.

A defining quality of the American people is our love and affection for the underdog, the downtrodden, and the Hail-Mary pass.

I’ve not seen an era when inequality has been so wide, unemployment consistently so high, and a cohesive national plan so elusive. Nor has there been a time when our nation has been so divided.

Some harken back to the late ‘60s as a similarly divided nation. Those who took patriotic pride in our nation fought a cultural war against those who were on the verge of being drafted to fight a war of tragic consequences. Yet, most people then still harbored optimism for our nation.

Those who fought that 1960s cultural war so captured by Meathead and Archie on “All in the Family” still believed that America was the land of opportunity. Everyone who worked hard could secure their piece of American pie. Business was good, unions represented values that protected the entire working class, and government constituted a smaller share of the economic pie. The nation yearned for leaders who could cement together such institutions.

That concrete foundation of shared values has eroded, just as has the foundation of our nation, rich and poor alike. The share of wealth that goes to the working middle class erodes each year too, while the zealots from either party have more in common with each other than they do with the rest of us.

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