Im trying to keep my head up. I really am. But the last few weeks, Ive been immersed in the raw guts of whats wrong with this country and whats wrong with Congress.
As you might imagine, its a sticky, ugly mess made more so because some of our wisest, most experienced leaders and scholars arent sure how or whether we can turn it around.
I dont see anything out there pulling us out of this, former senator Jack Danforth told me about Congress inability to reach consensus on much of anything these days, including the weighty fiscal policies before the nation. Thats why I think its different this time.
Have I made your day yet?
Danforth was in my ear one day, James Steele the next. Hes the UMKC grad who along with Donald Barlett form the nations most honored investigative reporting team. Steele was on my radio show Up to Date discussing his new book, The Betrayal of the American Dream. In it, the two talk about unfair trade policies undermining the middle class, tax policy skewed toward the rich and a general decay in the notion of the American dream.
This is a sea change in American life without modern parallel, Steele and Barlett write. Where once we were told, over and over, that anyone could move up the economic ladder, now that movement is, with some exceptions, down.
One alarming finding: Barlett and Steele write about the power of the new ruling class. From the book: We have created the worlds newest financial aristocracy, a class that has successfully put itself beyond the reach of government constraint and can do pretty much whatever it wants in pursuit of its own personal gain.
The two also insist that whoever wins the White House will remain committed to policies that cripple the middle class. One reason: all that money pouring into campaigns.
We are no longer the democracy we once were, they say.
Have I brought you down far enough yet? If not, consider Congress a subject close to my heart these days. My colleague Dave Helling and I have spent weeks trying to understand why its so locked up, unable to compromise, unable to really function in any way remotely as it should.
Our findings appear in a major report in Sundays Kansas Star. We found the situation worse than we thought and easy answers simply out of reach.
Again, what catches you up short is this fear that this country cant fix it. The answers are complicated, and landing on them will require the type of attention and involvement that voters appear unwilling to give.
The last time Congress was so locked up, it took a Civil War to straighten things out.
You down there in the gutter with me yet?