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Opinion | Building a Better, Fairer Nation | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Opinion | Building a Better, Fairer Nation

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To the Editor:

The America We Need” (Opinion series, Sunday Review, April 19) points to the many ways our country falls short in meeting the needs of all but its wealthiest residents. Yet the changes you call for cannot be anything but an impossible dream as long as the fundamental structure of our governing system places control in the hands of those with little desire to meet the needs of the vast majority.

The policies you advocate all demand substantial government outlay. The funds for this can come ultimately only from those gifted by capitalism with means far above those of the “average” person. Yet those with the means — human nature being what it is — have no interest in diminishing their own situations to aid the beneficiaries of the policies you favor. They want to believe that they’ve “earned” everything they have, and — what’s more — they deserve it.

Because of their resources, these people inescapably shape the legislative votes of those who must have their financial support to win and remain in political office. The needs are well known to those without the power to make changes, and are far outweighed by self-interest in those who do have that power. This is the conundrum our system curses us with. Beyond just telling me the needs, tell me specifically how you would solve it.

Marty Gerber
Santa Fe, N.M.

To the Editor:

It’s not possible to conquer inequality. It has been ever thus — it is inherent in our species. But we can put the almighty dollar into perspective and recognize the sink-or-swim mentality and moral insensitivity that have evolved in our country.

It is a system that rewards some with yachts and leaves others without a life raft. Where one C.E.O.’s annual salary and bonuses could provide a comfortable living for 500 workers. Where one American has seven houses around the world, while another sleeps in his car. Is this not a form of societal insanity?

We must find a way to appropriately recognize and compensate the value of every worker, top down, in the United States, and let no one slip through the cracks into poverty and deaths of despair. We must do this not by charity and handouts but by respect for how we each have a need to contribute, to feel included, and to be a valued part of something larger than ourselves. Many of our other societal problems would go away.

Kate McClintic
Beaufort, S.C.

To the Editor:

Sprinkled throughout most of the pieces in the excellent Sunday Review section are indications of a growing menace, not a pandemic or an economic collapse, but a menace that will make both worse. For want of a better term, the Uninformed Menace. For many reasons, too many people deny scientific facts and advice, ignore stay-at-home requests, minimize social distancing as crucial, embrace unproven remedies, and will eventually refuse to be vaccinated (if a vaccine can be developed).

While articles like those in the Sunday Review address a rational description of the challenges the world faces and some of the possible solutions, these will not help those who are irrational, selfish, greedy and/or only ideological. Unfortunately, such people make up a large percentage of the population, so rational solutions will go unheeded to the detriment of too many. As an educator for more than 50 years, I know education should help, but I wonder what else can be done.

William A. Yost
Scottsdale, Ariz.

To the Editor:

While I applaud The Times for initiating an editorial project on how the inequality of wealth and income in America is distorting American society, it’s totally unfair for you to single out particular wealthy men and how they reach into their own wallets. To wit, it’s none of your business if the hedge-fund billionaire Kenneth Griffin paid millions last year for a New York City apartment, nor is it any of your business if the billionaire David Geffen planned to ride out the pandemic on his yacht.

Those two men have every right to spend their own money as they please, and it is not their responsibility to correct wealth inequality in this country.

Daniel G. Cohen
Burlington, Vt.

To the Editor:

I was brought to tears by your coverage of how Covid-19 has exposed inequality in America. I feel complicit in the problem. I am not poor, but I don’t have millions of dollars to throw behind a cause. I donate to charity and nonprofits when I can, but my contributions seem trifling. Hopelessness inevitably sets in. I seek solace in focusing on my first priority, providing for my family. But the guilt eventually returns. I should have done more for others. The cycle repeats.

As you explain, political and economic forces have entrenched this problem in our society. Voting is not enough. Feeding the hungry is a Band-Aid. We need systemic change, but many of us don’t know how to help. As you continue your coverage of this issue, please include ways in which middle-class Americans can become part of the solution and effect meaningful change.

Ethan M. Simon
Philadelphia

To the Editor:

The sentence that has stayed with me after reading “The America We Need” is the one that begins, “The modern welfare state was constructed in three great waves.” How important it is to reclaim welfare as a positive descriptor, and thus a positive concept. The welfare of all should be a democracy’s focus.

Sadly, over many years welfare has been demonized, used as a slur on the poor. Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” epithet was a low point, but even Bill Clinton spoke with pride of “end welfare as we know it.” The welfare state is actually the one to which we should aspire — a nation in which everyone’s welfare is valued and nurtured.

Jane Braunger
Portland, Ore.

To the Editor:

All of the articles in this issue brilliantly describe how Covid-19 has exposed systemic inequalities baked into our status quo. This virus has cast a spotlight on the policies and ideologies we have accepted as true — the gross domestic product as an infallible guide of economic prosperity, health care linked to employment, etc. — that have enabled those most privileged and powerful to gut the programs built to protect the vulnerable and lift up the disadvantaged.

I hope future issues will showcase lies told about public education that have similarly weakened an institution that was supposed to be an engine of social mobility. Rather than mindlessly accepting the call for tightened budgets that will inevitably emerge from this crisis, we need to fundamentally rethink our commitment to public education and use this crisis to finally provide adequate funding to our schools so that we can produce the next generation of leaders — scientists, doctors, nurses, poets and policymakers — who will be able to guide us to a better future.

Stephanie Bower
Pasadena, Calif.

To the Editor:

Corporations cannot and should not be counted on to cure pandemics, poverty or America’s sad and embarrassing racial, income, housing and education inequalities. These problems can only be solved by government. Government’s job is to create and enforce an equitable tax code, collect revenue and spend the money in fair and equitable ways (with a considerable focus on doing the kinds of things that only government can do).

The job of corporations, and citizens, is to pay their fair share. The myth of corporate responsibility allows both sides to pass the buck. For example, the editorial states that “large corporations lobbied successfully against a proposal to provide paid sick leave to every American worker, pleading they couldn’t afford the cost.” The corporations shouldn’t have been asked; they should have been taxed. And the money collected shouldn’t have been applied toward every worker, but rather toward every American.

Michael Wilder
Mahwah, N.J.

To the Editor:

Has Bernie Sanders joined The Times’s editorial board?

Yoav M. Cohen
Chappaqua, N.Y.


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