Friday, April 27, 2007

Looking for a New "New Deal" and some courage

Wallace Roberts has a provocative piece in the Vermont Guardian questioning whether there is such a thing as affordable living in Vermont -- or anywhere else -- for the average person.

I have to admit, my husband and I have recently had conversations about our financial state after law school that go something like this:

"How can we make $ X from our combined incomes so that buy a house in Vermont that will probably cost twice that, so that we can save for college for our children that will cost three times that, and so that we can save for retirement that will cost four to seven times that amount? Then we consider that out of that same income (which is still well above the national median, mind you) we must also pay off school loans, afford health, life and home insurance, and fulfill our commitments to our church and community organizations. It seems too much.

Then I thnk of the millions of families who are the "working poor" with no prospect for retirement, no health insurance, who live daily with job, food and housing insecurity. This is a real problem in Vermont and in the Upper Valley. But how in the world do we get people into office who care enough about our virtually invisible and certainly disenfranchised neighbors? Who can explain to those already in office that neglect of our poor citizens DOES effect the business bottom line through a complicated economic system of lost productivity, trade imbalance, regressive taxes and system-wide cost shifting?

There seems to be a threshold of entitlement for the wealthy, that makes $25 Million space vacations OK and somehow beyond ethical scrutiny. (see Simonyi's $25M space station trip). Considering that the majority of our national leaders either come from such wealth or now live in it, how do we raise their consciousness beyond compassion to the level of courage required to do something?

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