Friday, April 05, 2013

We know better. Why aren't we doing better?

It began with me complaining a bit. My dad said, you're a bit negative tonight. So I turned it around. I said, Dad, we know how to do better. Why aren't we? We have in the past. I grew up in the Fifties, in the decade following the Second World War. We had a Republican president, yet we managed to build the interstate highway system, and send all the returning veterans to college! Of course the top tax rate was above 90%, yet the rich were doing very well. And the average worker was doing well too, and unions were, not coincidentally, very healthy.

So I guess I got used to Stuff Getting Done. As I came to adulthood, I saw the war on poverty, the voting rights act, Medicare, cleaner air, cleaner water -- all efforts to fix big problems in American society. We saw problems, and made real efforts to fix them. What happened to that?

We know that global climate change is getting more extreme, faster and faster now. And we know what to do to slow down the destruction, and even turn things around. And we in the US do nothing, at least on the national level.

At one point, we saw poverty as a terrible national problem. Now we have more poor Americans than ever before, and it's barely mentioned. Half the food that we grow is thrown away, yet more people than ever before are hungry. We used to care about this, and made HUGE progress with the commodities food program, and food stamps, and various welfare schemes, but rather than expand these effective programs, we're shrinking them!

The US puts more people on prison than almost anywhere else on earth. Why? We know how to bring down crime. We've done wonderful pilot projects where young parents are given excellent help to learn to be good parents, and know that that brings down crime rates. We know that high-quality preschool helps kids all the way to college. But we haven't made preschool available for every American child. And many American kids get no sex education, and even more are never taught about how to handle relationships, and use birth control. The result is that American teens have babies at much greater rates than the rest of the Western world. We know what works, but we aren't doing it.

When we sent American GIs to college, the US vaulted into the future. We aren't we sending ALL American kids to college, who want to go? Why are we building more prisons, instead of more colleges?

I could provide many more examples, but they all illustrate the same point. We know what to do, and we're not doing that. Often we're doing the opposite, or rewarding "bad behavior" rather than what serves the country's progress, public health, economy, prosperity, job growth, and on and on.

Why aren't we doing better? My dad had no answer. I know the common answers -- money in politics, growing inequality, etc. But again, we know what we need to do, and we're not doing it. Why not?

No comments: