Let’s set aside Sen. Barack Obama’s pastor for a moment.
After all, the most controversial thing statement this week wasn’t Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s contention that the United States deserved Sept. 11 (“You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you”) or his claim that our government may have launched the AIDS epidemic to kill blacks (“Based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything”).
No, the controversial statement came in Obama’s denunciation of Wright. “I’m particularly distressed that this has caused such a distraction from what this campaign should be about, which is the American people,” Obama said. “Their situation is getting worse.” And that is what should have attracted attention.
After all, such pessimism isn’t a new idea in the Obama camp. Back in January his wife Michelle told a crowd in South Carolina that, “The life that I am talking about, that most people are living, has gotten progressively worse since I was a little girl.”
Strangely, the Obamas aren’t alone in seeing things getting worse. The April 27 edition of The Washington Post Magazine attempted to predict what life in the nation’s capital will be like in the year 2025. “We studied reams of reports on the region’s future, convened two panels of experts on everything from shopping to energy policy, and we found unanimity on only one point: In 2025, the haves will have more. The have-nots won’t,” the story said.
If true that would reverse American history, which shows that over time, most people will do better.
Illustrations with the Post story showed Manhattan with a giant hole in it (courtesy of a nuclear device) and the brand-new Nationals Park overgrown and abandoned (apparently major-league baseball has given up on D.C. for a third time by 2025).
What’s with all the pessimism? Sure, it’s likely the Nationals will be dead last year after year. “Washington is first in war, first in peace, last in the standings” as they used to say about Washington’s previous team, the Senators. But there’s no reason to expect them to leave, and no reason to expect life to get worse.
In fact, it’s difficult to find a 20-year period in the U.S. where things got worse. Even if one cherry-picks a bad year -- say 1930 -- and looks back 20 years, what stands out is all the progress. During those two decades, radio went from non-existent to widespread. Telephones, electricity and indoor plumbing also made vast inroads, making lives better for tens of millions of Americans.
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