Time for a New Social Compact

Time for a New Social Compact
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Another avoidable mass casualty event has been visited upon innocent Americans. This time 49 lives have been claimed with 53 others suffering severe injuries in a Bataclan-style act of domestic terror carried out by Omar Mateen. The targets of this heinous attack were primarily celebrants marking Pride festivities throughout the night at the Pulse night club in Orlando. The senseless bloodshed in Orlando has the dubious distinction of being the worst case of gun violence in the U.S., marking the 16th time President Obama has had to console the nation in a sign of frustrating political futility to enact sensible gun reforms. Chillingly, Orlando was one of two plotted attacks on America's LGBT community on one of their most important days. The second act of mass violence was planned in West Hollywood, California, where the would-be perpetrator, Wesley Howell, was thwarted by law enforcement officials with a large cache of guns and explosives. Mass casualty events like these, whether they occur in elementary schools, movie theaters or night clubs, and the impotence in our political system to respond affirmatively, call for a new social compact in the U.S.

The usual prayers, vigils and consolation icons that replace Facebook photos are now farcical with how quickly they change to recognize the latest atrocity. It is time to move from indignation and reverent solidarity, to concerted political and social action. This is the only way to do justice to the thousands of victims of gun violence and to ensure they did not die in vain. Rampant gun violence and the inability of elected officials at the local, state and Federal levels to keep their citizens' safe is but one example of our eroding social compact. Others include the ZIP code lottery that dictates whether children will get an adequate public education or not. Crumbling infrastructure punishes all sides of the political spectrum (and all races) as wantonly and indiscriminately as gun violence. Over Labor Day weekend, more than 60 people were shot in Chicago, whose persistent violence barely registers on the national radar. In short, we are at war with ourselves and no foreign-borne threat can sow the type of chaos on the U.S. like our home grown variety.

Many people have grown tired of futile calls for gun reform and long term investments to begin arresting the tragedy of the commons that has gripped the country and seized many a great community like Detroit and Puerto Rico in its grasp. For serious change to occur, we the people must de-industrialize political influence on our elected officials. In Washington, D.C. there is a 12:1 ratio of lobbyist to elected officials. This type of paycheck persuasion, private jets and political favors can no longer get people elected or keep them in office if we are to have serious change in the country. While mass casualty events like Orlando, which will certainly not be the last, command our attention, albeit in a brief search for causality and motives, there are many long range attritional threats facing the country that are equally dire and neglected. Our internally displaced people (IDPs) from post-Katrina New Orleans and the fact that D.C.'s public schools graduate 64% of their high school students are but two examples of how long range preparedness is woefully lacking.

Renewing America's social compact between and among its citizens and their elected officials requires a generational change in our leadership and an awakening in our public. The pathways to the middle class have been persistently shut over the last decade. Wages have stagnated, while the rungs of progress and education have grown farther apart and slipperier than ever before, requiring usurious student debt to see a graduation - with little guarantee of workforce mobility. In fact, we are now saddled with the lowest degree of economic mobility in a generation and the American Dream looks increasingly fleeting. The largest of our companies fly flags of convenience sheltering more than $2 trillion overseas, due in part to our byzantine corporate tax code and double taxation on repatriated earnings.

The concept of Fortress America, building walls, xenophobia and economic retrenchment are of little use in the era of man-made risk. Zika, cyber threats and hateful ideologies promulgated by Daesh or other groups, do not recognize national borders and can propel lone wolves as we have seen in San Bernardino and Orlando. Instead, these amorphous threats are effectively combated by a strong, fair and engaged U.S. One that recognizes the double standard of telling countries like Egypt to curb police brutality while Baltimore and Ferguson are alight. One that is not afraid of tough diplomacy, where values, such as not torturing prisoners of war, are consistently upheld even when it is inconvenient. All of these elements that shape our domestic environment make up 'Brand America' and collectively they are our most important deterrents.

Following another senseless mass casualty event, where tragically some in our country applaud the divine retribution against the LGBT community, Brand America is severely tarnished adversely affecting our domestic and international security. As long as it costs billions of dollars to occupy the Oval Office and there are no term limits or consequences in representing the people, we are assured a very sad, uneven and increasingly violent status quo. This great country can change if its great people find the will and common ground to do so. Like universal suffrage, the civil rights movement or, more recently, marriage equality, there are times when the U.S. can leap forward. Now is the time for demanding a new social compact on national public safety, quality education, reliable and safe infrastructure and a business environment where global competition and workforce mobility move in lockstep.

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