When that ability is compromised and that opportunity is diminished, the problem does not reflect any inherent weaknesses in the system. Rather, it points to the degree to which the system is being manipulated to benefit those who have already made it to the top. In that context, it is justifiable for the vast number of people left at the bottom to demand inclusion and action that restores the economic balance.
Indeed, there have been times in the past when that balance was distorted but the middle class has been able to weather the subsequent economic storm because those at the top have tempered greed with realism, if not generosity of spirit, understanding that America cannot be financially healthy if the fruits of economic activity are plucked by only a handful of citizens.
In recent years, however, that unstated compact between the “haves” and the rest of the nation has not simply unraveled; it has been abrogated by the wealthy, the so-called “one percenters.” The result is that the so-called “99 percenters” are losing their jobs, their homes, their families, their dignity.
That is today’s American realism and that realism is the context in which President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress. In his speech, he came down unequivocally on the side of the people, especially with regard to economic inequality.
“We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules,” the president said.
That vision of America is the right one.