By John L. Horton
For many disadvantaged citizens and other minorities, the upcoming general elections throughout the nation will have a special meaning and significance. These elections will affect who/which party gets elected into power: U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, state legislatures, governors, mayors, councils, boards, committees, commissions, and the like.
As a result of the 2016 elections, future nominations will be made for the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Courts of Appeal, and other influential judicial bodies throughout the land. Also, there are a host of policies and programs that will affect us domestically, economically and politically: public education, public health, public safety, infrastructure renovation, affordable housing, affirmative action, equal opportunity, welfare reform, tax regulation, bank management, corporate oversight, economic empowerment, immigration/naturalization, military expenditures, budget requirements, national debt, and the like.
Many of these “causes and obligations” are referred to as “big government spending programs” by critics and others. Well, I, for one, think that many of these “big government spending programs” are still needed. Yes, many of them need rethinking and revising; however, they are still very much necessary. The primary reason for this is that today’s playing field is not yet level for all of America’s citizens. Today, as before, there is (still) a glass ceiling and invisible barrier which prevents many qualified Americans from fully enjoying the fruits of their labors and skills.
Moreover, the mere reality of today’s America proves that “big government spending programs” have not resulted – as sometimes claimed by critics and others – in reverse discrimination and undue hardship on White males and privileged others. Has anyone recently checked out who truly runs this great nation: Corporate America, economic wealth, political power, income levels, social status, educational achievement, technology dominance, and the like?
Contradictorily, has anyone checked out living expenses (housing, food, transportation, utilities, gasoline, clothing, medical, taxes, insurance, etc.) lately? Believe it or not, low/minimum wage earners are affected disproportionately and disadvantageously by these everyday costs and rising expenses. And, their cost of living is going up and their standard of living is being constantly/disproportionately lowered. Meanwhile, the stock market has been at an all-time high, recently over 18,000 points. Further, it is estimated that over two trillion dollars, possibly upwards of $4 trillion, are being held off-shore and in other similar accounts. You would think that some of these vast “riches” could be utilized to generate jobs and increase wages across the board for all “workers,” thereby making it possible to eliminate and/or reduce some “big government spending programs.”
Accordingly, it is important to note that “big government spending programs” have been a necessary means of facilitation for certain previously overlooked groups of people to get a “fair” and “legal” opportunity to be included in the overall composition of American society. As a result, more diverse groups of Americans have been able to utilize their skills, talents, expertise and knowledge to maximize their potential and advance equitably in the overall society. In effect, they have been given an “equal opportunity” to gain access to the employment, entrepreneurial, educational and economic arenas.
Some “critics” have falsely blamed “big government spending programs” for many of America’s social, economic and political “shortcomings.” In reality, the world’s social, economic and political marketplaces have put on a “new face” and “different look” as they compete with America for survival and superiority. For example, America’s decreased earning power in some industries and jobs is due in large part to the highly competitive world marketplace and changing technology of the 21st century.
Many of us conveniently forget that the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) has not been raised since July 24, 2109. And, for 2016, the federal poverty guideline is an annual income of $24,300 for a family of four. Real wages, income adjusted after inflation is taken into account, have been flat or even falling for decades, regardless of whether the economy has been adding or subtracting jobs. Many of these so-called “big government spending programs” have been utilized to subsidize and/or supplement individuals and families in these challenging economic times. For example, the Federal Reserve Board (2016) reported that approximately 47 percent of American consumers would have trouble coming up with $400 to pay for an emergency.
While some have demonized and stereotyped “big government spending programs,” they have yet to come up with a positive and meaningful alternative that would include America’s “melting pot” of people. To remain the world’s leader and continue to have an economic advantage, we must include all Americans with their diverse skills and talents. In short, we need a mutually inclusive remedy to unite all of American society as we go forward into this new millennium. Most of all, we cannot continue to divide and disfranchise Americans along social, economic and political lines. America has enough natural resources, human resources and technology resources for all of us to share responsibly, equitably and justifiably.
In closing, I strongly agree that some “big government spending programs” need revision and amelioration. Some have significant imperfections that need to be mended and/or corrected. However, these necessary and much needed programs should not just be irresponsibly eliminated without implementing adequate replacements for them. For, there is still a need for “big government spending programs.” And, this will – or should — be among the most important issues to be decided for the local, state and national elections in November 2016, and beyond.
John L. Horton is a resident of Norfolk and a frequent contributor to this newspaper.