If you’re wondering how a socialist who touts countries with the world’s highest tax rates and a demagogue who appeals to people’s ugliest instincts continue to be their parties’ presidential frontrunners, consider this: The United States ranks dead last among well-off countries in income and wealth inequality and close to the bottom in job creation and economic mobility, according to a just-published report by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. Among its findings, the U.S: “has a distinctively anemic safety net and distinctively unequal distribution of wealth;” “performs poorly in domains that have historically been regarded as its strengths,” such as job creation; “fails to deliver on its long-standing commitment to . . . high mobility;” and “is starkly at variance with our reputation as the land of opportunity.”
This is not the America we venerate at Super Bowl games and Rotary Club breakfasts; nor the one we learn about in schoolbooks. That exceptional America has left the building, replaced by one “where the birth lottery matters more. . .than in most well-off countries.”
And yet we’re still inside, clinging to the myths on which we were nurtured, wearing our American flag lapel pins, cheering patriotic speeches, thanking veterans for their service, asking God to continue blessing us – and dismissing the possibility that Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump could ever get nominated, let alone elected, president of the United States. While millions of Americans, across all spectrums, are experiencing the gulf between the America of their dreams and the reality of their lives.