A Common Growth

I remember years ago reading books that discussed the common good. Usually the authors were looking for common values that transcend cultural differences. Kidder, wrote about shared values in a troubled world, and others wrote about categorical imperatives so important for the social adjustment of our society.

Currently I am reading articles and books that are exploring a common economic growth. The argument, as Pitney proposed in his book on Capital in the 21st Century, is when a society’s economic growth is substantially related to the holding of capital and not through income, we have a widening gap between the haves and the have nots. Although I don’t agree with all of what Pitney discusses in his book, I do agree with this premise. I believe for a society to prosper all of its participants need to have a growing piece of the pie. This is an issue, because how does society accomplish this, yet not fall into a socialist trap?

William Galston has an editorial column entitled “Politics and Ideas.” I find it enlightening and centrist. Yesterday’s column began with a review of Kissinger’s new book and describing America as a problem-solving nation. Galston states that this skill can be used to create a growth that works for everyone, not just a favored few. I tend to agree with this.

Our political system is broken. Democrat or Republican parties are held in the pockets of their rich cronies, which is undermining our republic. As a nation we’ve forgotten how to be innovative and creative, leading to human beings taking initiative. The number of people on government transfer payments continues to grow. These are just two symptoms of our social problems that I think are critical, but what does Galston say?

“Recent reports underscore the extent of the challenge.” His challenge, an economic growth that works for all! Galston reports that unemployment has ticked down to 6.1%, but “the employment to population ratio is lower than it was at the official end of the great recession.” Our labor force participation rate is the lowest it has been since 1970. Galston makes a good point, “The aging of the population accounts for some of this decline, but it cannot explain why participation among prime-age workers between 25 and 54 stands at only 81%, two points below its level in 2007.”

We have all read the reports that state the top 10% of our society have flourished in this new economic, while “family incomes in the 40th to 90th quintiles have stagnated.” We’ve also read how the bottom 10% has actually lost significant ground. Recent reports have also stated that those with a college degree have had their incomes stabilize, while those without a college degree lost 10% of their income. Polls now show that only 16% of Americans think that job opportunities will be better for the next generation.

The Global Strategy Group conducted a survey between January and March of this year. They found that 78% of us think that Congress should promote an agenda that ensures economic growth is fair. The responders also felt that for everyone to flourish the middle class needs to thrive, which right now is not the case. The question one must ask, is how do we do this?

Many believe there needs to be an expansion of apprenticeship programs. Others feel the colleges need to be more affordable. I think both of these are an important start. Millions of jobs that require technical skill are not being filled each year due to a lack of people with the necessary skills. I think a thriving apprenticeship program can help there. Machinists, plumbers, and electricians are trades that pay livable wages and are respected. Seems to me we need to develop those skills.

It also seems to me that we will need doctors, professors, managers, philosophers, and others that require college educations thus we need to make our schools more affordable. The school I teach at has attempted to accomplish that, as well as carve itself a niche by creating a remedial system to help first generation college students.

These are two specific actions that can work if we build the right support systems with strong financial foundations. By doing this we can have a positive impact on our society, but do we have the will? This is a very simplistic way of describing solutions, but for those of you who are watching the PGA Tour Championship occurring at Eastlake Golf Course, do a little search on the Eastlake Foundation. You’ll be amazed at what has occurred in the neighborhood surrounding that golf course. You’ll see a community that came together and transformed that community from an underperforming, crime-ridden community, to one of the best in Atlanta.

And that is my thought for the day!

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