"As the ancients
Say wisely, have a care o' th' main chance,
And look before you ere you leap;
For as you sow, ye are like to reap."
Samuel Butler 1612-1680
Today I'm writing about society's actions that have helped lead to income disparity and the next column will address the changing world economy's role in this phenomenon.
In the winter I spend time in the Rocky Mountains and stay connected to work by phone, Internet and priority mail. Like Alpena, the place where I live in the winter is a microcosm of American culture - just a bit more extreme.
The Native American population lives pretty much still on the reservation and comprises about 10 percent of the population. Hispanics at 60 percent are the majority while Anglos make up the remainder. There is no industry except tourism, so the wage scales among the indigenous peoples is very low.
Children who leave for college generally just keep going after graduation as there is a paucity of jobs in tourism for college educated people. The ethnic segregation is evident as the Anglos live out in the high desert while the Hispanics are gathered in towns and villages. The population is declining. Residents vote 70 percent Democrat and the same state legislators have represented the area for at least 20 years.
New Mexico has one of the lowest average income levels in the U.S. and the illegitimate birth rate is over 50 percent. The percentage of government employees in the workforce is among the highest of the 50 states.
It's not really so different than Alpena. We grasp for low-paying tourism jobs but the college educated kids just keep leaving after graduation. We dream about federal plums like the Drone Project. Our unwed mother birth rate is increasing and we are reading "Fifty Shades Of Gray" rather than "David Copperfield" or "Jane Austin." Our churches have lower attendance than in the past and we have lost many of our entrepreneurial middle class.
Although graduates of area high schools have attained flag rank in the military and have corporate jobs from Singapore to Germany, we seem to be languishing being unfocused on family, church, and self-reliance. Maybe we are just tired and just sort of want someone to take care of us.
We have become self-indulgent in America and more than a little whiny. We are not willing to be structured in our personal lives to do the work academically, morally, and economically to move ahead.
Harvard studies show that there is as much or more economic mobility in the system as in the past. Students who are preparing for their future and grabbing hold of the rungs of the economy and pulling their way up. It's the same system as it always was: Family values, faith, education, developed skills, and perseverance.
The difference is that the politicians are telling us that life is really just too hard and if you'll vote for them as the new Messiah, then you will be saved. This message seems too good to be true.
That's because it is.
America, it's time to pull up our big girl and boy pants and start competing before the emerging nations eat our economic lunch which, by the way, isn't free - we must work hard to stay on top.
We are the greatest nation in the world but it's "we the people" who make it so.
When I was at college we got a new president who assembled all of the tenured professors in a room and told them how "the university" was going to do this and that. The professors were seated by seniority, with the more senior members in the front. After listening to the plans, one old boy stood up and said "but Mr President, we are the University," thus explaining who really was in charge.
Well, we are America. Change must begin with us to improve our economic condition - both individually and as a nation.