by Max Brantley
"Land of Opportunity." As Arkansans know too well of our historic motto, that was a euphemism for impossibly unequal circumstances and terrible deprivation. For too many, it merely meant nowhere to go but up.
Paul Krugman this morning takes on the myth of equal opportunity in America.
Americans are much more likely than citizens of other nations to believe that they live in a meritocracy. But this self-image is a fantasy: as a report in The Times last week pointed out, America actually stands out as the advanced country in which it matters most who your parents were, the country in which those born on one of society’s lower rungs have the least chance of climbing to the top or even to the middle.
Krugman cites the failure of government — and its failure is embodied in the policies of candidates such as Mitt Romney. From cradle to college, odds are stacked against the disadvantaged.
Think about it: someone who really wanted equal opportunity would be very concerned about the inequality of our current system. He would support more nutritional aid for low-income mothers-to-be and young children. He would try to improve the quality of public schools. He would support aid to low-income college students. And he would support what every other advanced country has, a universal health care system, so that nobody need worry about untreated illness or crushing medical bills.
If Mr. Romney has come out for any of these things, I’ve missed it. And the Congressional wing of his party seems determined to make upward mobility even harder. For example, Republicans have tried to slash funds for the Women, Infants and Children program, which helps provide adequate nutrition to low-income mothers and their children; they have demanded cuts in Pell grants, which are designed to help lower-income students afford college.
And they have, of course, pledged to repeal a health reform that, for all its imperfections, would finally give Americans the guaranteed care that everyone else in the advanced world takes for granted.
More good questions here for U.S. Rep. Steve Womack's town hall meeting in Fort Smith this week, and for his running mates in the Republican Tea Party contingent.
Ask them, too, particularly U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin whose only private sector work has been a brief stint as corporate tool, about corporate personhood and the sewer of lobby money gushing into the Super PACs.