The news is that state and federal government is broke, and so prudence requires eviscerating social safety nets ("entitlements"), while also breaking public unions. When and how did this being broke happen? And did we get broke by chance or choice? In my role in philanthropy I get to work with and talk with the movers and shakers who are richer than ever as the Reagan/Thatcher/Milton Friedman/Chicago School style of disaster capitalism moves forward. Ideas matter and for a generation the ideas that dominate public discourse have been those of unregulated ("Free Wealth Bondage") capitalism The pain that rolls down to the least among us was intended, planned and executed and often enjoyed by those who are not moved to compassion. The strong prevail, the weak perish. Those towards the bottom are taught to kiss up and kick down. We call that the Tea Party. America is only another labor pool, like India. And until labor is broken to work for prevailing global wages, in sweat shop conditions, with minimal environmental protection, management and capital will say we are broke and must cut, shift jobs off shore, eliminate safety nets and take other emergency measures to insure optimal return on invested capital. To preserve appearances, we (corporate ideologues, aka Bus School Professors) will talk of Shared Value Creation and Social Ventures and Balanced Scorecards, all meaning that corporations can be released on their own recognizance to do what government might once have done before it became subordinated to business. Shared Value creation means: Trust Wall Street - you don't need justice, or unions, or philanthropy. Trust global business for global business is altogether benign and includes all good things within it, and will rule you and serve you, and employ you, and entertain you, and inspire you, and brand you, and give you fries with it too! The main thing when the country is broke is to extend tax cuts for high income earners, reduce estate taxes to preserve and grow dynastic wealth.
Where will we find the moral and intellectual capital to reframe the Reagan/Thatcher/Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama worldview in which rights are diminished, wars exhaust our treasury, and Wall Street rules benevolently: both the reciever of tribute (bailouts) and the distributor of largesse (shared value).
Faith traditions, the liberal arts, and the recalcitrant voices of the well and truely educated who are now marginalized - that is where I turn, without hope, for Camus said, in a book devoted to the question, why not suicide, "Live without hope for hope would be hope for the wrong thing." I have no hope that we will rescue ourselves, or our states or country, from our moral and intellectual, much less financial and political bankruptcy. But hope is not needed. Self respect is enough to stiffen the back.
(This post is a response to Wisconsin's crisis of cash, governance, and conscience. A federal and state crisis built to purpose and well funded for decades now by those who profit from it. The role of philanthropy is now this: The broke succor the broke while the rich walk off with all else including the intellectual, media, and political resources needed to frame the debate. Thanks, Bill, message received. Sign me up for the course on tough love. What the poor need most is a good lecture on their moral responsibility.)