In the aftermath of serious civil disturbances — aka riots in the cities in 1967 — the Kerner Commission (or the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders) was set up by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson.
A basic determination of the report was the admonition that America was actually two separate and unequal societies: One composed mainly of whites, the other — mainly blacks.
We are at a similar, yet decidedly different, point in our nation today. Though the chances of this president either caring about such a division — especially since he seems to relish in sowing discord — much less appointing a commission to study the problem are so slim, they approach negligible.
Yet, here we are.
Many might assume that I reference the civil discord that manifests itself on social media, Fox News and other information sources. I do not.
What I reference is something far more pervasive, that which affects every person every day in the pocketbook: We are actually morphing into two distinct economic spheres — the educated/haves and the uneducated/have-nots. For as states that spend little per capita on education continue to regress socially (think Alabama’s abortion ban, North Caolina’s “bathroom bill,” and Oklahoma’s teacher strike), a caution is in order to those on the right wing “no tax” extremist fringes.
The caution is as old as saying, ‘Be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it.”
A case in point: A while back, the overarching extremists in North Carolina’s state legislature pushed a “bathroom” bill on its own constituents, one that served no purpose other than to impose ludicrously extreme social viewpoints on the rest of the population. This minority — empowered by gerrymandering — cost the state billions of dollars in economic revenue and development.
The NCAA pulled out their tournament. Several high-tech companies aborted large-scale plans to expand their in-state operations. And perhaps, even the film industry — once a mainstay of the eastern shore of the state — all but disappeared from its economic calculus.
Thus we see that the two separate societies are economic: Low-wage, dead-end jobs in these regressive states, filled with social agendas of hate, intolerance and disrespect for minorities, women, Jews, immigrants of color, and anyone else considered “the other.” Compare this to states which are doing exceedingly well — so well, that the regressive states appear to want to punish them, like with the tax scam bill of 2017.
Yet no amount of behavior, much less the “punishment” authoritarian-style behavior of the extreme right wing and American oligarchy will alter the pathways being followed by the distinct groups. In fact, unintended consequences — such as those seeking lower taxes who then migrate to regressive states — can and will likely change the political calculus of these states.
I can’t see untrained and out-of-work coal miners moving to the “coastal elite” cities. They would find no work, and couldn’t afford a place to live. They would never feel socially comfortable.
Companies that depend on educated and skilled talent eschew moving to regressive states. They are not perceived to be pleasant places to live for the employees these companies want to attract. Their potential employees want something better — a quality of life that a regressive and “punishing” social agenda precludes.
So the regressive states — Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee, to name a few — are on the road to dead-end economies that can only be sustained by dead-end jobs. The major employers, with the possible exception of their ever-shrinking government sectors, will locate production centers in far lower-wage economies, like in Vietnam and India, or other regressive states.
Coal mining and other “good factory” jobs in old industries aren’t coming back. And these regressive states haven’t the vision, nor the sophistication, nor the political will, to look forward to new industries being lured there.
But America can never again compete on the premise of “low-cost labor.” And the regressive right-wing fanatical states will ultimately become pockets of poverty amidst a sea of prosperity.
So go ahead, ban abortions. Go ahead, steal votes. Go ahead, chase businesses elsewhere. You’ll wind up with the dregs, and a miserably unhappy population.
Thomas Friedman’s recent piece in The New York Times on successfully thriving small towns in America (his example was in Minnesota) is the model for our country. Too bad those extremists could care less about their constituents, and their homes.
They will be forever in the downward economic spiral they have agitated for during these terrible years of no American leadership. One of their own making.
Like I said, be careful of what you wish for. You might get it.