Pine Nuts: What we need now is a new deal
Way back in 1889, Mark Twain published a book that speaks to us today with an immediacy that transcends the ages.
In Twain’s “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” Hank Morgan prophesizes, “I was become a stockholder in a corporation where nine hundred and ninety-four of the members furnished all the money and did all the work, and the other six elected themselves a permanent board of direction and took all the dividends. It seemed to me that what the nine hundred and ninety-four dupes needed was a new deal.”
Forty-four years later, FDR would answer Hank’s call and declare what America needed in 1933 was in fact, a New Deal.
Moving along another 86 years to 2019, when “Death by Twitter” became the politicians greatest fear, it gives me comfort to harken back to a day when President Roosevelt went on national radio to share a group prayer along with 100 million Americans gathered around their radios … “Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations, into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the scheming of unworthy men.”
Our history reminds us that inequality undermines governance. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned a century ago, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
As today’s politicians spend more and more of their energies avowing fealty to their donors, voters are growing more and more outraged by the exorbitant role that money plays in politics.
Big Pharma spent over $200 million lobbying Congress last year. This shadowy influence of lobbyists begets a bifurcated economy and a polarization that is a clear and present danger to our democracy.
Reducing structural inequality begins with addressing the gap in empathy, which will take time. To establish a more egalitarian government we need to shift the conversation from what we are against to what we are for … a no-corporate-PAC pledge is a starter.
Personally, I like Babe Ruth’s response when asked how he felt about making $80,000, more money than President Hoover in 1930: “Check the record, I had a better year.”
Our tech moguls are amassing an unhealthy share of our economy, and with the majority of millionaires we now have in the Senate, we can expect to hear much talk about corporate welfare, and little talk about assisting the poor. Or, as Nevada Senator John Percival Jones said to Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge back in 1867, “Senator, you have never come down to earth. You don’t know a blessed thing in the world of how a poor man goes to work to make a living and to feed his babies.”
An Uber driver shared with me just yesterday his concerns about inequality in Southern California.
“Wealthy people are buying up our houses, leaving them empty for two years, then selling them at a profit, while I drive 10 hours a day to make my $2,000 monthly rent. That ain’t right.”
Welcome to the Gilded Age of 2019.
But let us leave the last word to Mark Twain and close here with a smile …
“I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.”
Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.
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