We were having an afternoon meal at a preferred local dive. Our favorite server had taken our order and was keeping the drinks coming. During visits the subject of dogs materialized, as it often does with us. Sadly, our server explained that she couldn’t afford a dog.

I realize that adult humans make questionable financial choices from time to time. Anyone spending morning rush hour at seven eleven stores as I have get a crash course on questionable financial decisions.

Customer after customer comes in, purchases a cup of overpriced, bad coffee, two packs of cigarettes, five dollars in gas, and uses the change for lottery tickets. This happens over and over. The customer usually offers some solid advice about what the government should be doing with our money. I get it. Habits are hard to break.

But you would think that the richest country in the history of the world could do a little better for its citizens. It would be easy to provide free health care and free education to any citizen desiring it. Everything depends on what one considers entitlements.

That evening I heard that Department of Education Head Betsy DeVos had lost a yacht. Someone had snuck in and cut it loose from the dock. She only has nine others. Does anyone really need ten yachts? Later that week I heard that Bill Gates’ home in Seattle has six kitchens and sixteen point five bathrooms. Wow.

In 1965, the income disparity between CEOs of companies and their employees was 20%. Today the figure sits at 271%. In 1973, after four decades of steady income growth, the nation’s middle class began to experience income stagnancy. The only growth was happening at the very top percentile of income. That remains true today although the gap is widening. Today the richest 20% of Americans account for more than 80% of the nation’s income.

In 1980, corporate America paid 30% of the country’s tax bill. Since then, Republican legislators have pushed three tax bills through Congress. Currently, the corporate tax responsibility is about 10%. None of the tax savings appears to have been passed to employees. Stock dividends and yachts are way too important.

For all of those former middle class employees, buying power has stagnated and the government’s safety net has been reduced. Health care is a mess and anyone going to college without help will have a lifetime debt to pay off.

During the last fifty years, Republican politicians have run almost exclusively on policies of fear and division. Proudly sporting American flag lapel pins and claiming the Bible as their favorite book, those legislators and their party have run entire campaigns in state, local, and federal races based on racist attitudes toward Blacks, Hispanics, and Muslims, and the idea that Liberals are turning America in a Socialist nightmare.

Unions and working Americans have been hamstrung in favor of the super wealthy, and issues like healthcare, opioid drug addiction, and infrastructure have been ignored. The current administration is no different; only more blatant.

One would think that eventually people would wise up and realize they are voting against their own self interest, or not bothering to vote at all. But after fifty years, very little has changed.

Fear and ignorance play well in America.

Image: taken by Brian A Jackson and licensed on iStockPhoto.com by LikeTheDew.com  
Mike Cox

Mike Cox

Mike Cox currently writes a weekly column in South Carolina for the Columbia Star called "It's Not a Criticism, It's an Observation." He is trying to grow old as gracefully as possible without condemning the current generation in charge to doom. Each day this task gets harder as the overwhelming evidence mounts. He currently has two published books; Finding Daddy Cox, and October Saturdays. His columns have won three South Carolina Press Association awards since 2003. Mike has three sons and two grandchildren and lives in Irmo, Sc, just outside of Columbia.