Editor: President Obama recently spoke in Washington about what we — that is all Americans — need to be concerned about. He noted that “a relentlessly growing deficit of opportunity is a bigger threat to our future than our rapidly shrinking fiscal deficit.”
The opportunity deficit can be our undoing — far more alarming than the fiscal one which is under control. Speaking of deficits, here’s what I call a moral deficit. The Economic Policy Institute reports that the pay of CEOs in the U.S. from 1978 to 2011 rose by 725 percent while the income of workers rose by 5.7 percent.
That kind of disparity not only has led us into a financial downspin, but it also has eroded our identity as a land of opportunity and a culture that aspires to “liberty and justice for all.” It obliterates hope among the disadvantaged and yes, even among our youth. It suggests to the world that we are mindlessly greedy.
It’s hard to understand the intransigence and absolutism of the extreme right wing in the Congress on matters of opportunity — legislation to increase the minimum wage, to provide preschool education, not to mention affordable health care — not only falls on deaf ears but inspires outbursts of contempt.
These attitudes and antics fly in the face of the values that our Founders had in mind. Our “brand” — what we have been known for, what has brought people to our shores — is opportunity, not riches; fairness, not privilege.
In a recent sermon, Pope Francis decried “the globalization of indifference.” We have it in our power — it is both our right and our responsibility as citizens — to take the lead in restoring the culture of opportunity to our nation and to the world. Disparity and indifference are just too toxic.
Publication Date: December 17, 2013