The biggest political change in my lifetime is that Americans no longer assume that their children will have it better than they did. This is a huge break with the past, with assumptions and traditions that shaped us.
The country I was born into was a country that had existed steadily, for almost two centuries, as a nation in which everyone thought””wherever they were from, whatever their circumstances””that their children would have better lives than they did. That was what kept people pulling their boots on in the morning after the first weary pause: My kids will have it better. They’ll be richer or more educated, they’ll have a better job or a better house, they’ll take a step up in terms of rank, class or status. America always claimed to be, and meant to be, a nation that made little of class. But America is human. “The richest family in town,” they said, admiringly. Read Booth Tarkington on turn-of-the-last-century Indiana. It’s all about trying to rise.
Parents now fear something has stopped. They think they lived through the great abundance, a time of historic growth in wealth and material enjoyment. They got it, and they enjoyed it, and their kids did, too: a lot of toys in that age, a lot of Xboxes and iPhones. (Who is the most self-punishing person in America right now? The person who didn’t do well during the abundance.) But they look around, follow the political stories and debates, and deep down they think their children will live in a more limited country, that jobs won’t be made at a great enough pace, that taxes””too many people in the cart, not enough pulling it””will dishearten them, that the effects of 30 years of a low, sad culture will leave the whole country messed up. And then there is the world: nuts with nukes, etc….
When the adults of a great nation feel long-term pessimism, it only makes matters worse when those in authority take actions that reveal their detachment from the concerns””even from the essential nature””of their fellow citizens. And it makes those citizens feel powerless.
Read it all.