The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system...America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools...
When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism.
I wonder if any of these corporate villains attempted to ask Mr. Webb what he intends to do about this economic inequality. In his op-ed, he offers to no policy recommendations, other than a whiff of protectionism. Winning the election required no concrete proposals, as his opponent's campaign self-destructed when candidate George Allen used a scatalogical term ("macaca") to refer to a reporter with Arabic facial features.
As for blaming America's public education system, I have to plead guilty. Here is an exact quote from the first sentence of a paper that was turned in by a student in my class at George Mason:
Social Security is a huge topic that is quite often read about in the newspaper and discussion about in the news.
I'll wager that this student did not go to private school. I'll also wager that when (if?) this student graduates, she will not be earning a salary that will make Mr. Webb jealous.
This student's command of English was somewhat below the median in my class, but she is not an outlier. Next time someone tries to tell Mr. Webb that the earnings distribution has something to do with differences in human capital, he might consider listening.