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Aledo Times Record - Aledo, IL
  • Mark L. Hopkins: Share the wealth?

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  • President Barack Obama has identified growing inequality of wealth as a major issue. In short, the rich seem to get richer and the poor stay that way. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was quoted as having said, “There are 47 percent of the people ... who are dependent on the government. I’ll never convince them that they should take responsibility for their lives.”
    It is not likely that we will ever bridge the gap between those who believe that we should have a totally free market economy and those who believe that government has a viable role to play in adjusting our economic system to broaden the benefit. To a segment of our population “broadening the benefit” means doling out money to those who have found a way to live without working. When Obama talks about the inequality of wealth in our society they envision taking money away from those who have earned it and giving it to those who haven’t.
    In 50 years of public life I have never met anyone, liberal or conservative, who is for giving money to people who refuse to work and are “working” the system. Liberals don’t like give-a-way programs any more than conservatives. The key issue is how to give everyone an equal opportunity to live productively in the wealthiest country in the world. Most of us realize that some of our citizens have handicaps, (physical, mental, educational) that keep them from being totally productive. Dealing with these problems should be a major national goal. And, yes, we do have some slackers who require us to be vigilant against fraud.
    During the great depression, perhaps the most difficult economic time in our history, the government stepped in and provided sustenance for a significant portion of our population. But our depression era programs were not give-a-way programs. Work camps were established in all 48 states and men and women joined together to improve our country’s infrastructure. They built 200 swimming pools, 3,700 playgrounds, 40,000 schools, 250,000 miles of road, and 12 million feet of sewer pipe in just the first three years of the programs. No program created by the federal government during the great depression was a “dole.” Everyone worked for what they received. Our depression-era solution to the national unemployment problem promoted “work” as a value and as a human need. That is a lesson we need to re-learn.
    One of the great challenges of our society is teaching our citizens how to make their own way. Today we have vocational schools, community colleges and subsidies for students trying to better themselves. Sustenance shouldn’t be the only goal in government programs. Education, training and learning to be productive should be major goals as well.
    Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. Contact him at presnet@presnet.net.
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