We Must Do Better

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As a society, we have paid a very high price for being abused by an obnoxious, toxic, demoralizing two-year political campaign. The length of this dispiriting gauntlet of insults is the main problem. Two months of it, fine. But not two years. We now seem to govern for a couple years and then collapse into another twenty-four months of ad hominem insanity. No other developed (or otherwise) nation on the planet goes through such an unproductive, wasteful, mindless election process. Can we try to heal this madness? Will the White House and Congress agree to some kind of time limit on electioneering?

It would be tragic to miss the blatant lessons of this recent ungodly process. Arguably the biggest challenge we confront is the socio-economic disparity between a minority of our population whose lives are continuously improving juxtaposed against the masses mired in decades of stagnation. With their choice, the electorate has confirmed this, in spades. Sadly this issue was hardly raised during the misguided, acrimonious debates. The depth of this problem was hardly touched. Nor were the causes of this inequality fully addressed. Yes, solutions exist. But first we, all of us, must grasp the ugly reality. Kudos to Nicholas Kristoff for a recent column doing just that.

He focused on the most vulnerable among us, the young ones. They are the tragic victims of our society's willingness to hear not, see not, and therefore do nothing.

He wrote about Emanuel Laster, a 13-year-old boy in Arkansas whose home has three televisions, bought on credit, but no food. Laster gets A's and B's in school, but has been caught shoplifting and hangs with kids who carry knives. He wants to attend college, but his sink is always full of dirty dishes, the house smells of marijuana, and there isn't a single book anywhere on the property. What are his chances?

Kristoff writes: "Too many American kids are set up or failure when they are born into what might be called the 'broken class,' where violence, mental illness, drugs and sexual abuse infuse childhood. Yes, such young people sometimes do stupid things, but as a society we fail them long before they fail us."

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, he met 17-year-old Nataly Ledesma, pregnant already at the age of 13--when the father was 28 years old. She had never heard of birth control, and her child was two by the time she entered a health class where she learned about condoms.

Child poverty is indeed the most malignant and tragic aspect of our society. We must find solutions to strengthen families and care for the elderly. We need more jobs, we need for business to raise wages for our hard-working employees, and most important, we must provide education for all our children so the opportunities for a better life opens up for everyone.

If you share this concern, keep reading my columns. Early next spring, look for Capitalists Arise, a book in which I exhort business leaders to realize it's up to them to increase opportunity in this country and close the income gap--and thus start the healing process. Only by addressing the necessary economic growth needed to create new jobs and fairer compensation for all employees can we prepare the way for better education and a resurgence of hope in families that have all but given up on their own kids.

Peter Georgescu is the author of The Constant Choice. He can be found at Good Reads.

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