A LITTLE OFF THE TOP

DAN JACKSON

So maybe it’s because we’re in the dog days of summer, but for the last month or so, instead of being controversial, obnoxious and gloriously vulgar, I’ve tried to be as informative and as fair as possible.

This is not because I’ve had some change of heart. The human condition is, for the most part, barely above the level of cockroaches. But we seem to keep splitting infinity as we head further and further down.

I thought, why contribute to that? Maybe someone will consider real issues; maybe I can break through.

The result, on the blog where I publish, Medium.com, was anemic! Half the audience I normally have read it.

Then last week, I wrote a rather divisive to the far-right and far-left column and, boom, I ended up with four times the readers!

I mean, I wrote about the mass murders of the past weekend and how both sides needed to give a little. I received negative feedback from only those extremes.

But the interesting thing was, I received positive feedback from those in the middle. Some were conservatives in the middle. Some were more liberal in the middle.

I like that. I like knowing there are some of us, when given more than two solutions, either far right or far left, willing to consider stuff in the middle.

I just wish it could translate to more mundane, boring issues.

We have a serious problem with increased poverty in our country, and it’s not because people are lazy.

Yes, there are some folks stuck in the systemic merry-go-round of a welfare state; but more and more, we are seeing people working a job or maybe jobs and not being able to get ahead.

This is called the working poor. And with the shrinking of the middle class, more and more of them are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to succeed in our country.

So the extremes say this:

From the left, we need a minimum (living) wage. And Washington needs to make it happen. Basically about $15 an hour nationwide.

OK, so this is insane. It’s too much, too quick and not applicable to all parties involved.

A minimum living wage in Paris is less than in Knoxville, which is probably less than in Nashville.

A minimum living wage in New York is more than a minimum living wage in Montana.

From the right, they would say, “Forget about any minimum living wage at all. People should better themselves and find better jobs. Case closed!”

And, of course, this is no solution, either. Rural and urban communities simply do not have the same infrastructure. They do not have the same opportunity to make more money or to find the same success.

Let’s say you’re a kid who has grown up in a rural community. Federal, state and local governments have spent billions trying to equalize opportunity between urban and rural areas. Nothing has changed.

Political and economic power has continued to shift to cities. Those left behind in small towns face increasingly difficult barriers to education and, hence, wealth and, hence, health.

It’s not surprising President Donald Trump polls so strongly with rural voters. They have been left behind.

Rural Americans generally live further away from doctors, get less medical care and get less exercise.

Rural Americans likely live further away from schools than in the past, because of consolidations.

Rural Americans are more likely to get their high school diploma, but far less likely to go straight to college.

Rural Americans who do graduate from college are likely saddled with so much student debt, they are unable to find jobs in their hometown that affords them to pay it back.

This eventually results in a brain drain, where the smartest kids with whom you grew up leave town.

Rural Americans as adults are more likely to be obese, have mental health issues, suffer from diabetes and cancer, as well as be more prone to opioid addiction.

They are also more likely to know someone who has committed suicide.

So where do we draw the line? How do we solve this ever-evolving divide?

Why, instead of setting up false economic ceilings or floors, is it such a bad idea to provide basic quality healthcare to all our citizens?

Why, instead of setting up private schools where the rich will be funded further by the government, do we not make quality education available to all our citizens?

You should be able to go to college. You should be able to learn a trade. You should be able to better yourself.

And while sacrifice is always important in setting your own personal baseline for motivation and success, does the sacrifice have to be so extreme to make it a barrier of entry?

If we demand both parents must work, why is it so prohibitive, so wrong, to provide quality childcare?

We are a nation of super-rich and super-poor. We are a nation of heavily indebted, paycheck-to-paycheck, middle-class folks.

There are solutions out there, people, but we have to give from both sides to get them.

 

DAN JACKSON is a self-employed Paris businessman. His email address is danjackson@alittleoff.net.

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