January 7, 2023
Decline, and the way back
It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that we are a culture in decline. There are elements of decline, such as the corruption of the language (look at the daily crosswords) which have no connection to politics, but important problems relate to policies, biases and behavior on the right.
A president attempts to retain power illegally, relying on lies about fraud, a mob attacks the Capitol and 147 Congressional Republicans vote to reject legitimate electoral results. Politicians and others on the right play on fears and resentments, making them worse, encouraging tribalism. The Republicans are so much in thrall to their right wing that it takes fifteen ballots and numerous concessions to elect a Speaker of the House.
The economy has rewarded business, not working people, as shown by charts published by the EPI. One reveals that, beginning in the early 1980s, wages have lagged behind productivity. Another shows that “fatter profit margins have played a historically outsized role in driving price inflation.” A third reveals that the federal minimum wage today is worth 27% less than in 2009, 40% less than in 1968. (Not surprisingly, another is captioned: “Without government programs, millions more would be in poverty.”) Republicans, serving business and only pretending to aid ordinary folks, will do nothing to change this pattern.
A serious contribution by the right to societal illness is its opposition to gun control. There were more than six hundred mass shootings last year. A chart published in The New York Times illustrates an especially appalling development: “Gun violence recently surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death for American children.” A measure of the flood of guns is the number detected by TSA at airports; it reached a new high in 2022. As of December 16, TSA had intercepted 6,301 firearms — more than 88% were loaded — up from 5,972 the previous year. Another measure is the number of states, now 25, which allow carrying a gun without a license. The right’s love of guns turns its tendency toward separatism into a looming menace. Republicans will not do anything to solve that problem; indeed, they are determined to make it worse An article in The New York Times last May illustrated their orientation: “ more than 100 television ads from Republican candidates and supportive groups have used guns as talking points or visual motifs this year. . . .as candidates praise the Second Amendment, vow to block gun-control legislation or simply identify themselves as ‘pro-gun.’ ”
These trends cannot be allowed to continue, and the GOP will not reverse them. Democrats must regain control of Congress, but to do so, they must find a way to persuade voters that they are on their side, that they are not the privileged elites of right-wing propaganda, that government is not the enemy.
1. https://www.epi.org/blog/epis-top-charts-of-2022-epis-most-popular-charts-tell-the-story-of-how- pandemic-setbacks-in-income-inequality-were-mitigated-by-pandemic-relief/?mc_cid=d26a73574b&mc_eid=faa04e9f25
2. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/12/14/magazine/gun-violence-children-data-statistics.html? campaign_id=52&emc=edit_ma_20221216&instance_id=80273&nl=the-new-york-times-magazine®i_id=22748210&segment_id=120008&te=1&user_id=3c8ad60682fc8ebf910291b2246ab6c0
3. https://www.tsa.gov/news/press/releases/2022/12/16/tsa-breaks-record-number-firearms-security- checkpoints-announces-new