I believe in a society where we all have the opportunity to reach our full potential. We may not all reach it but we should strive to create a society where such a thing is possible. This means excepting the reality that a democracy, that economic fairness and potential don’t happen by accident.
We learned that it was possible to create such an economy when under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration a New Deal was created for Americans. We also know what happens when some American citizens get left behind. Policies like Social Security, 30 year mortgage guarantee, the National Labor Relations Act and the GI Bill, made it possible for citizens to survive old age in reasonable comfort, buy a home, form a union and get a fair wage, and attend college to improve their status.
These policies helped create a middle class for thousands of Americans and a ladder up for thousands of others who wanted to make a better life for their children. In other words they created a society where opportunity was possible.
Unfortunately, it left behind domestic and agricultural workers leaving women and people of color on the wrong side of the door to opportunity. The omission has left pockets of poverty through out our society.
The last thirty years we have seen a steady dismantling of the new deal. Protections put in place to secure opportunity for all have gradually been taken away and with them the rungs of the ladder up to the middle class have been cut for many citizens.
The American Dream is something through out our history we have strived for – some of us got there with the help of an economy that created opportunity. Through out our history policies have been put in place to make achieving that opportunity more certain. John Adams who helped write the Massachusetts state constitution added a provision establishing a system of public education. Over the years different communities have invested in public hospitals and public health systems.
Cities, counties and states and now even the federal government have invested in roads and systems for transportation. The Tennessee Valley Authority established a system for the production of electricity making it possible for commerce and consumption of goods to grow improving the lives of millions of ordinary citizens.
Not every country is so fortunate. Some societies develop an economy where only a few people can realize their dreams. They protect that opportunity with armed guards making sure masses of people beyond their gates have little or nothing. Living in squalor and poverty they never have the chance to discover what they might accomplish given the chance. This waste of human potential is lost to every one.
If we want to secure the ladder of opportunity for our children and grandchildren I believe there are five things we must invest in:
- Quality education for everyone
- Good Health secured by equal access to a quality health care system
- A world class transportation system available to all
- A sustainable, affordable and safe energy system
- Living wages for all working people