You may not give a damn what my thoughts are about this falls’ coming election. And that’s OK, but for personal reasons, I want to put them on record.
I think fundamental flaws have emerged over the past 5 decades in the economic and social structures we see today in the United States. It’s led to inequities that are dramatic and unsustainable for several demographic profiles.
There’s a reason so many younger people follow the words of Bernie Sanders. Income inequality, across both racial and age divides, rival that of the 1920’s. The median net worth of the top 10% of American households today is some 24,000 times greater than the bottom 25%. Over the past 25 years, that disparity has increased by a factor of 18. It’s an unsustainable trend.
For those in the bottom 25%, again across racial and age divides, basic health care has become prohibitively expensive. The cost of housing in many metropolitan areas, has become, by my standards, insane. My first house, which I contracted to have built in 1967, had about 2,000 square feet of living space. The finished cost was less than $17,000, including a lot that fronted a lake. I was married and our university salaries totaled about $14,000 per year, if memory serves. We had no problem with a minimal down payment and monthly mortgage payments.
I’ve been a Democrat since I first registered to vote in 1963. I’m trained in economics and finance. I’ve long understood the need for a progressive tax on earnings to support the role played by the government, both domestically and internationally.
We can no longer claim that American capitalism, as it exists today, hasn’t resulted in negative outcomes for millions of Americans. That’s one reason why Donald Trump was elected. For a large swath of the American electorate, it was an attempt to remedy those negative outcomes.
There’s a reason why Bernie Sanders has built his current campaign around the frustrations and economic failures being experienced by the younger generations. The irony for me is that the electorate is now being forced to choose between three old white men, none of whom have personally experienced anything remotely like those frustrations and economic failures over their lifetimes. Their frame of reference derives from what it was like in the 1970’s, when the world was a very different place.
Today the top 1% owns more wealth than the bottom 90%. What comes to mind for me here is the Arab Spring that engulfed the Middle East a dozen years ago. There was rioting in the streets because in those places, the top 1/10th of a percent owned more wealth than the bottom 98%. Those figures may not be absolutely accurate, but you get my point.
When will an “Arab Spring” come to life in this country? Where will you fall on the spectrum of income inequality 20 years from now? How about your children and grandchildren?
There’s a first term congresswoman from New York by the name of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). She identifies with those who want major and lasting changes to a system her cohorts don’t see working for them. Too many lives are being upended in our changing economy by their inability to get ahead, no matter how hard they work. Being told and controlled by old white men whose values put them in their current circumstances suggests we have problems that need fixing, and soon.
I get very frustrated by calls to condemn any form of Socialism. In many respects, we began using socialist ideas in the 1860’s with the introduction of National Parks. Few older Americans refuse to accept a monthly stipend from the Social Security Administration, something derided as being Socialist, some 85 years ago.
However, I think Bernie made a tactical mistake by calling himself a Democratic Socialist. Too many Americans, especially older ones, associate Socialism with Communism. We lived through the existential conflicts with the Soviet Union those many years ago. We all agree Communism has fatal flaws. Socialism has too many perceived parallels.
I prefer to call myself a Social Capitalist. I can continue to align myself with the Democratic party, retain my belief in Capitalism as the optimal economic model for this country, and the free world, and at the same time believe our country’s social contract with many millions of Americans has become fundamentally flawed and needs to be redefined.
I’m also unsure if any of those three old white men has what it takes to last until 2024. There is so much that has to be undone from the current administration, much less tackle the inevitable pressures from new crises that you know will surface between now and then.
For me, key issues are the selection of a Vice President. I want to see someone younger and sensitive to the needs of AOCs cohorts, someone with the necessary skill set to identify managerial talent when it comes to appointing people to cabinet positions, someone with courage to accept their own pending mortality such that assigning responsibility to others is not a threat to their own viability as a leader of the free world, and lastly, someone with intellectual curiosity.
And like the flaws of Capitalism, to my mind, each of the three old white men running for the Office of the Presidency have significant flaws. But the reality we face is that one of them will become the next President. Choose wisely my friends.
Tony Kendzior \ 6 MAR 2020