It's the inequality, plain and simple. The haves and the have nots.
Say what you will about Goldman Sachs -- and we do say a lot -- but its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, recently boiled down one of America's most complex problems into a perfectly simple and quotable line. Repeat after Lloyd, folks:
"This country does a great job of creating wealth, but not a great (job) of distributing it."
We, the United States, have never been richer, and our economy is still the largest in the world by a hefty margin. Yet inequality has grown to record levels. Productivity is up, but the majority of households are living with stagnating or even lower household incomes. Chief executives of the nation's largest companies earned an average of $12.3 million last year, more than 350 times the income of the average worker and more than 800 times the income of a full-time, minimum wage worker. The richest 400 Americans own as much wealth as the bottom 150 million Americans. Almost half of the county lives below, at or near the poverty level, and one in six Americans is food insecure -- meaning they don't know where their next meal will come from.
Our America needs a strong middle class, but the mindless sequester cuts threaten the very priorities that help build and sustain it: Childhood nutrition, student aid, job training and housing assistance programs. Treading water by simply avoiding more cuts is not enough -- we must accelerate job creation efforts and prepare our people with 21st Century skills training. We should increase investments in our communities, supporting more good-paying jobs in construction, manufacturing, education, public safety and health care. Those investments will increase spending in local economies, helping our country to grow at its full potential.
We have a choice. We can allow the growing disparity between rich and poor to continue unimpeded, or we can take action to budget responsibly and strengthen and expand the middle class. If we want this economy -- and this country -- to meet its full potential, the choice is simple. Call your elected officials and let them know how you feel.
W. Frank Hairston, Ravenna Township