SOL SANDERS: WHAT MR. ROMNEY MIGHT HAVE MEANT
What Mr. Romney [might have] meant
Americans have always liked to believe one of the remarkable achievements of U.S. society – differentiating it from The Old Country – was social mobility. Our “aristocrats”, whether moneyed or “stars”, were mostly only a generation away from obscurity. And chances were their progeny wouldn’t hang on to their status unless they, too, were high achievers.
That belief in American meritocracy has been challenged by recent studies. Statistics seem to indicate greater disparities are being passed on. That’s despite abundant examples to prove the old claims. There are, after all, all those new Silicon Valley millionaires. And Virginia, the largest slaveholder, already elected.in 1989 a grandson of a slave, the first African-American governor since Reconstruction.
Mr. Romney’s recently largely misinterpreted remarks – he whimsically said given his pledge to reduce federal income tax, he hadn’t much chance at votes from the 47 percent not paying any – transmogrified into the usual campaign cackle. The essential question of whether American society has become less entrepreneurial, more dependent on government handouts and regulation, less competitive and vibrant, was lost in the volley.
Not that the argument isn’t complicated. Our revolutionary technology alone has changed so many ways. My car man points out he now must have several dozen computer software programs – no longer just wrenches and sweat to keep my two- decades-old crate going. When I tracked down an appliance repair man to fix our dryer this morning, the initial telephone “interview” involved a dozen questions I couldn’t answer.
But business economics are not by any means the whole story. What some of us sense is a growing division in American life between a self-appointed, supposed meritocratic elite and the rest of us plebes. And just as in the last days of the Roman Republic, we like the Roman plebeians and the nouveau riches feel threatened.
Has American society increasingly come under the thumb of a generally well-heeled, educated [after a fashion], ultra-urbanized cultural leadership which thinks it knows what is good for the rest of us [whether we like it or not]? In so many ways, Obamacare was the apotheosis of that possibility And alas! in addition to failing to solve the fundamental problem of rising medical costs, the evidence rolls in revealing the anointed hadn’t a clue what they were really putting together.
As so often in history, cultural origins and implications of phenomena are its most important element. Nowhere is that more apparent than in contemporary communication arts and education.
More than a decade ago, the brilliant social thinker – if rather lousy politician — Daniel Patrick Moynihan signaled what had happened to the capital press corps. Mr. Moynihan was responding to the maumauing he had taken for an insightful inquiry into the Negro underclass. But in an aside, he suggested there had been no fruitful discussion, in part because of the changed nature of newspapering. During one generation, he claimed, it had gone from being populated by working class stiffs trying to get their street smarts past editors and publishers to pseudo-intellectual suburban dilettantes convinced they had to lead, to tell readers what they should think.
As print media dies in the cataclysm of the digital revolution, Mr. Moynihan’s forebodings are exemplified in a New York Times no longer “the newspaper of record” but an outrageously polemical, irascible, ideologically challenged schoolmarm. Then there’s its politically correct twin, Washington subsidized NPR and PBS, in obvious violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition against government interference with the press.
Free and universal public school education which was once America’s unique contribution to Western culture has eroded to holding pens no longer able to teach literacy. Ignoring history’s examples of successful education under a tree and in one-room schoolhouses, all emphasis has been placed on skyrocketing expenditures. The current Chicago impasse is the scandalous apotheosis: teachers’ unions demanding compensation at double their students’ parental income and refusing validation.
Tertiary education, too, for all its vaunted reputation, has become an anachronism with costs rising far exceeding inflation in other sectors. Full professorships reaching $200,000 with magnificent perks contribute. Nor does it occur to our “tenuratti” to question whether benefits-lined guaranteed lifetime employment is either tenable or fair. No wonder the essence of the university – a wide, free exchange of competing ideas – is often outrageously violated in an environment which perhaps more than any other encourages conformity to “politically correct” nostrums.
Comments are closed.