Tag Archives: united states

Obligations

Here in America we spend an awful lot of time discussing our rights, and not nearly as much time discussing the obligations we should meet in exchange for those rights. There's now a movement afoot to try and change that, as outlined by EJ Dionne in his column at the Washington Post:

And here is the sentence we often forget: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor.”

This, the very last sentence of the document, is what makes the better-remembered sentence possible. One speaks of our rights. The other addresses our obligations. The freedoms we cherish are self-evident but not self-executing. The Founders pledge something “to each other,” the commonly overlooked clause in the Declaration’s final pronouncement…

Last week, the Aspen Institute gathered a politically diverse group of Americans under the banner of the “Franklin Project,” named after Ben, to declare a commitment to offering every American between the ages of 18 and 28 a chance to give a year of service to the country. The opportunities would include service in our armed forces but also time spent educating our fellow citizens, bringing them health care and preventive services, working with the least advantaged among us, and conserving our environment…

The call for universal, voluntary service is being championed by retired U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in league with two of the country’s foremost advocates of the cause, John Bridgeland, who served in the George W. Bush administration, and Alan Khazei, co-founder of City Year, one of the nation’s most formidable volunteer groups. The trio testifies to the non-ideological and nonpartisan nature of this cause, as did a column last week endorsing the idea from Michael Gerson, my conservative Post colleague.

The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class

Below is a video of a speech Elizabeth Warren gave at the University of California about the stress on today's middle class families.  She provides lots of interesting data, but what I found most compelling was her comparison of a middle class family of four (two parents, two kids) in 1970 and 2003:

  • In 1970 most families had a single earner, in 2003 the vast majority were two-income families.
  • Average incomes were up in 2003 compared to 1970 due to the second worker, but fixed expenses (mortgage, health care, taxes, child care, cars) were 50% in 1970 and rose to 75% in 2003.
  • Discretionary expenses for items like clothes and food actually went down significantly between 1970 and 2003.  

It's a long video (almost an hour), but it really is worth a look to see how much pressure is on the middle class these days.  Even if you aren't a fan of Warren's it is still worth watching to get a sense of how things have changed in just one generation.

Last point I'll make is that this speech was given in 2007, before the economy tanked. I wonder how some of these numbers would look now.