15 July 2015: Clear Creek County can be the ‘American Dream’

Clear Creek County can be the ‘American Dream’

The Denver Post headline read “American Dream in crisis.” That was the decided take by big thinkers at the recent Aspen Institute confab.

To be sure, the American Dream is in crisis and has been since the rise of corporatism. The great transference of wealth to the upper ten percent began under Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s trickle-down economics was heavily influenced by neo-liberal, laissez-faire, Chicago School capitalist Milton Friedman who posited corporations have one duty only: maximizing stockholder profit.

Corporate hegemony soared into the stratosphere under Reagan acolyte George W. Bush whose policies brought about the Great Recession. Not since the Gilded Age has the gap between rich and poor been this wide with the top one percent hording more wealth than the bottom 90 percent has.  And with wealth comes power.

The Supreme Court rulings that bestowed personhood on corporations and empowered the uber-wealthy to buy candidates—Citizens United—serve to make oligarchy rule permanent.

Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam, reports Ray Mark Rinaldi, in his recent book “Our Kids” explained “how the breakdown of families and social structures is creating a knowledge gap between rich and poor children, leading to class segregation and living conditions reflective of the Gilded Age.”

“We’re moving toward an America that none of us have ever lived in, in which being affluent or being poor is inherited,” stated Putnam. Couple that with the latest study and finding that there exists a direct correlation between education level and good health. In short, if one’s born poor, not only does he/face a life of permanent struggle but he/she also will die sooner.

Dying as well is the boot-strap hope that those who inherit poverty can rise above it.

While economic disparity and the income gaps are among the primary culprits, they’re not alone.  “Paralyzing racism” and an underfunded public education system that reflects the society in which it exists contribute to the challenge.

Not everyone at the Aspen Ideas Festival was glum, however. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Sommers took umbrage at the “existential despair” being promulgated and offered a tangible solution: a progressive income tax requiring the rich to pay their fair share.

Republican 2012 vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) also noted the ongoing “narrative that America is in decline.”

Ryan noted, reports Rinaldi, that “what’s going on in America” is a “deep-seated anxiety, people giving up, especially in poor communities.” but reminded everyone that it’s his job to show people a positive vision for the future.

Mine too. While the American Dream is on life support, it’s not dead yet and oligarchic rule need not prevail.

There’s an antidote: Democracy, which is dependent an education system that teaches essential critical-thinking skills and media that challenges and speaks truth to power. Here in Clear Creek, we cannot change the direction of the country, but we can act decisively to create an environment conducive to allowing economic and social opportunity.

Over the past few months, I’ve been exploring that idea in a series of columns. What prompted me was the stark news delivered by Henderson Mine officials that the mine likely has a decade or less shelf life.

Over that period, I’ve spoken with and heard from others, leaders and thoughtful citizens alike who too were/are optimistic in Clear Creek’s future. One offered the idea, for example, that perhaps the Henderson complex could serve as a site for great minds to gather to explore ideas and concepts, which made me think of the Aspen event.

Why not, I thought. It would certainly tie in with reviving the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory—DUSEL—effort. Guests from across the U.S. or the globe need not go to posh Aspen or Vail for quality living, thinking, or playing. They need only to get to or, better yet, to live in Clear Creek County.

If we work with one purpose, we can make Clear Creek an inviting and desirable place to be. It begins with abandoning old ways of thinking and creating new visions. Simultaneously, it means holding everyone accountable for active citizenship, from cleaning up one’s home and property to volunteering and voting in every election.

Clear Creek can be a dynamic place to be, where the American Dream is alive and well. It takes will and action, but it can be done.

Perhaps, this can be our guiding principle: Destination Clear Creek: Motherlode of Opportunity.

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