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Equality vs Equality of Opportunity

Ultra-conservative Republican politicians are constantly trying to divide the voters by claiming that the Democrats want to make us all “equal” by penalizing the wealthy (with higher taxes) and creating “give-away” programs for everyone else. This is just another Republican effort to divide us.

Democrats don’t want to make everyone equal. All they are trying to do is give everyone an equal opportunity.

A child whose family is homeless — or who goes to school hungry — does not have an equal opportunity to learn.

The children of the average working family cannot afford the rising cost of a college education. Without the federal assistance programs the Republicans want to eliminate they don’t have an equal opportunity to get a college education.

The person whose job was shipped to China, and doesn’t have the skills needed in what remains of our economy does, not have an equal opportunity to provide for his family’s future.

We cannot assure that everyone succeeds, and we shouldn’t try. But we should assure that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.

I don’t believe in government give-aways to people who will not try to help themselves. But I do believe in helping anyone who will also do his or her own part to succeed.

There are many people who cannot — for reasons of health, physical or mental impairment or other reasons — fully provide for themselves. As a moral, civilized and charitable Christian society, we must respond to their needs.

Here are also some people who will not do what do what is needed to provide for themselves. As a civilized society, we cannot allow anyone to starve. But we have every right to expect something in return for our help.

We do not live in the America of our Founding Fathers.

When our nation was formed, most people were farmers or had small businesses. The skills they required to succeed were minimal, and formal education was not essential. Everyone had an equal opportunity to succeed. But that is no longer the world we live in.

Today, most Americans have work for someone else, and the forces that govern the economy — and everyone’s financial well-being — are controlled by someone else.

While some of our Founding Fathers were undoubtedly very wealthy by the standards of the day, the nation they created was intended to be governed by the people. They had just fought a war to rid themselves of control by a wealthy aristocracy that suppressed the ability of the people to control their own destinies.

Today, we have a new aristocracy – big corporations and the very rich. With their money they control who gets elected. With their political influence, they protect and extend their power.

Poverty, and the need for public assistance, do not exist simply because people don’t want to work. Poverty exists largely because we have failed to adequately educate people for the job market. Poverty exist because the jobs for which people of limited education are qualified have been shipped overseas. Poverty exists because, in many parts of the country, big corporations will not pay their workers a decent wage.

Obviously, the real problem is more complex than this. The point is that the “blame” for poverty does not rest entirely with the people who are poor.

Political commentators like to show graphs showing the continuing divergence in the income of the middle-class and the top 10% since 1980. But it is not just a coincidence that 1980 was about the time that the first generation where a high percentage of people with college degrees were reaching their peak earning years.

The solution is not to ignore the poor.  The poor are often faced with complicated problems that most people don’t think about.  Everyday items like toiletries are not readily available as many people live paycheck to paycheck.  They need help with making sure that they know where their next meal is coming from or help with credit and financial education so they are able to adequately participate in our society by way of being able to rent a home and eventually buy a home.

The solution is not to end all programs of public assistance.

The solution is to fix our failing educational system and fix our system of jobs training. The solution is to make skill training an integral part of our public assistance program so that people have an opportunity to succeed. The solution is for government to work with business to create jobs, and fill them with people who want to work but don’t have the opportunity.

We have a major “dropout” problem. Too few of our citizens finish high school, and we have to do something about that.

But the Republican (and Phil Roe) response is, “Too bad. You were irresponsible. Live with it.“

I disagree. A foolish act as a youth should not condemn anyone to second-class citizenship.

We need to expand our commitment to adult education and job training (and retraining) for adults. If someone is willing to help himself, we have a duty to provide them with the opportunity.