WELCOME! CrossCurrents aims to provoke thought and enrich faith by interpreting current events in the light of Catholic tradition. I hope you find these columns both entertaining and clarifying. Your feedback and comments are welcome! See more about me and my work at http://home.comcast.net/~bfmswain/onlinestorage/index.html or contact me directly at bfswain@juno.com NOTE: TO READ OR WRITE COMMENTS, CLICK ON THE TITLE OF A POST.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

#461: Making our Future Great Again—2: Trump’s “Trickle Down” Is No Magic Solution

At 80, Francis remains one of the world’s most popular and dynamic leaders, the most visible spokesperson for a vision of the future unrivaled by any political party or organization. I’m surveying the priorities of the Catholic vision in light of a post-election season that has left me both dispirited and perplexed about our prospects as a people. The topic this time: Economic Justice.
Pope Francis Meeting With Workers

Economic Justice

The Trump campaign clearly exploited the discontent of many working class voters (especially white voters) who feel left behind by the globalizing and automation of our economy. 

The economic dislocations brought by globalization, deindustrialization, and automation have been a long time coming. The challenge was already a topic of my economics studies in the late 1960s. Early on, it also touched my own family.

My father worked at General Electric from 39 years, and by the early 1970s he was president of his local engineering union. America’s jet engine was invented at the River Works plant in Lynn Massachusetts, which since World War II had been producing aircraft engines 24 hours a day.

But as the Vietnam War wound down in the 1970s, defense contracts shrunk and GE began laying off workers—including many members of my father’s union.  As citizen, my father wanted the war to end, but as union president, he was concerned about the welfare of his fellow workers.

Years later, my younger brother also worked at the River Works but was eventually laid off, caught by the continuing general decline of GE’s manufacturing business. At one point, thanks largely to GE’s presence, the New England region as a whole had employed 33,675 jet engine workers--27.8 percent of total US aircraft engine employment. By the mid-1980s, the River Works employment stood at 13,000. But the 1990s brought a drastic downturn, and by 2016 the plant employed a mere 2,850.

Ironically, in 2016, GE decided to move its world headquarters to Boston’s Fort Point Channel, where it will continue to expand its operations in the “internet of things.”  Decades after Ronald Reagan promoted GE’s Manufacturing prowess in television ads (“We Bring Good Things To Life!”), GE’s future lies, not on the assembly line, but in the cloud.

GE’s journey echoes the general US trend away from manufacturing—a trend that has left middle-class incomes falling for 40 years and opened a massive wealth inequality gap.

Trump’s Solution

Now Trump promises to restore jobs and reduce inequality in four ways: (1) penalizing U.S. companies who attempt to outsource jobs, (2) penalizing foreign imports with new tariffs, (3) investing “trillions” on America’s badly degraded infrastructure, and (4) reducing taxes across the board to stimulate job-producing growth,

The first action (1) may protect some jobs, though I believe (along with many economists) that most such jobs are gone forever. Tariffs and protectionist policies (2) risk trade wars wall as international tensions in an era when all economics--markets, corporations, and government policies--have become increasingly international.  For example, the European Union, for all its flaws, made free trade the cornerstone of its vision to bring peace to Europe after generations of war by encouraging nations to become packers rather than rivals.  And for more than 60 years it has worked.  I doubt the U.S. can simply return to a more isolated posture.

Step (3) might happen two ways. We might use tax money to create public jobs as we did during the New Deal, when FDR crated public works projects that put people to work in massive numbers. Or, we might see tax money going to corporations and wait for them to create jobs. Trump proposes the latter, which is the point of step (4)--reducing taxes across the board, for rich and poor, to produce jobs.

This presumes the working of “trickle down economics”: money at the top builds business, so the economy grows, and the wealth produced trickles down to those at the bottom. But Catholic Social Teaching, and Pope Francis in particular, reject outright this theory as a fraud.

The Catholic View

As Francis wrote in his very first major document, the 2013 apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel”:

Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.

Notice the term “sacralized,” which means “treated as something sacred.” Francis is saying we will fail to build economic justice if we turn the “prevailing economic system” (capitalist market economics) into something sacred—that is, into an idol. Francis even cites the classic Biblical image for idolatry:

The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

In a 2015 speech in Bogota, Colombia, Francis returned to the “idol” image:

Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.

Same people might claim that Francis is merely voicing a personal opinion, which Catholics can take or leave--or worse, he is spouting Marxist theories! But in an interview with an Italian newspaper, he rightly insisted that he speaks as the voice of Catholic Social Doctrine:

There is nothing in the Exhortation that cannot be found in the social Doctrine of the Church. I wasn’t speaking from a technical point of view, what I was trying to do was to give a picture of what is going on. The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the ‘trickle-down theories’ which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view but according to the Church’s social doctrine. This does not mean being a Marxist.

In his 2015 encyclical on climate change, “Laudato Si,” Francis returned to the same theme, saying free  markets cannot work magic:

 Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth…Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals.

Some have tried to blunt the force of this critique, but even conservative Catholic commentators have conceded that Francis is setting a standard for all Catholics. Patrick Brennan made this clear while reviewing The Joy of the Gospel for National Review, the journal founded by the famous Catholic conservative William F. Buckley:

The pope’s discussion…is about how Catholics should respond to the overwhelming changes that have come to the world “in our time,” which have made many richer and more secure, but left many impoverished and suffering. Those…changes, as free marketeers would surely agree, are not the product of command-and-control economics, but of free markets. The pope is arguing that freer markets haven’t so far brought us a properly just, caring society, and “in our time,” society has in many ways grown coarser, crueler, and more violent — so Catholics cannot advocate free markets per se. Some proponents of free markets may take issue with that sentiment; most would not.

So here is where we stand: Our new president is proposing to “fix” our economy, produce jobs, reduce inequality, and repair our infrastructure--all by reducing taxes across the board, thus freeing the corporate sector to spend more in a way that will benefit all. Unless he proposes something else to accompany this policy, he is clearly counting on the free market to solve all our problems without major government efforts (aside from tax reform and reduction).

There is no escaping the obvious conclusion: Trump believes the very “magical view” of free markets that Pope Francis (and Catholic Social Doctrine with him) rejects. In my view, the outcome is predictable: as long as we continue to idolize free markets and reject public action to redistribute income, the economic division in our culture will continue to fester and grow. A better future requires us to recognize that inequality can only be solved by redistributing wealth, not by adding to wealth at all levels. And only those who idolize free markets believe that they alone can do that.
© Bernard F. Swain PhD 2017

Monday, January 9, 2017

#460: Making Our Future Great Again: Connecting the Climate Dots

Happy Birthday to our Planet's Protector.
The pope’s recent 80th birthday 
has left me thinking 
that our future may depend on his.

Shortly after Benedict XVI resigned in 2013 at the age of 80, I paid my (almost) annual visit to France to visit friends, among them Michel Pansard, who just happens to be the bishop of Chartres.  Over dinner he expressed his conviction that Benedict was setting a precedent: that future popes might no longer serve for life, but would retire--presumably as he did, at 80 (this happens to be the age at which cardinals become ineligible to vote for pope).

It so happens Pope Francis and I share the same December 17 birthday, and this time it made me very aware of two things.  First, at 80 he shows no signs of resigning his post.  Second, he makes me envy his energy and endurance, for, even at 80, he remains one of the world’s most popular and dynamic leaders, and he has made himself the most visible spokesperson for a vision of the future that, in my view, is unrivaled by any political party or organization. 

I can only hope to sustain his sort of enthusiasm when I am his age.  But I confess the last year or so has challenged me to retain the kind of youthful spark I see in him. For the post-election season has left me both despirited and perplexed about our prospects as a people.

As someone prone to filtering current events through the lens of Catholicism’s social vision, I have never been fond of the Republican-Democratic duopoly of “politics as usual.” And since that politics evolved into neo-conservatism in the 1980s and neo-liberalism in the 1990s, I’ve liked it even less. Now our deeply flawed electoral system has awarded the presidency to the less popular of the two least popular candidates in our lifetime.

It is clear that Donald Trump (like Bernie Sanders) offered an alternative to such politics.  But while “alternative” means “different,” it does not always mean “better.” And I admit that, as I survey the priorities of the Catholic vision in light of recent developments, I find myself not so much hoping for the best as fearing for our future.

I temper my judgments with the proviso that it is seldom clear if president-elect Trump means what he says.  Those who took him literally but not seriously during the campaign were badly wrong; yet those who took him seriously but not literally are hard pressed to do more than guess what he will do.  Since he has contradicted himself on nearly every public issue, he can only mean about half of what he says--but I seldom know which half.  Keeping in mind that predictions about Trump are therefore often unreliable, let me briefly survey some main priorities of Catholic Social Teaching which, I remain convinced, offers the wisest contemporary vision for a better future.  I’ll include climate change, economic justice, human rights, globalization, respect for life, and peace.

Climate Change

I was sadly disappointed that climate change received such scant attention in the electoral campaign.  Trump called it a hoax, while Clinton called it real and requiring action--but neither one gave it much detail or attention.  The topic never came up in the debates, and neither campaign sought to motivate voters over the issue.

Yet for me, this was the overriding issue--not just of the campaign, but of our time.

I say this not only because climate change can disastrously alter the future of our planet, but also because, as Pope Francis has brilliantly shown, climate change is the master key to unlocking most of our biggest social problems.  Once we see how Francis connects the dots, it becomes hard to imagine resolving any of our major problems unless we address the environment.  Let me number those dots:

Francis presents climate change as just one piece of a much bigger puzzle.  He roots the problem in (1) runaway emissions (especially carbon and methane), which are generated by (2) our unsustainable reliance on fuels needed to power (3) a runaway capitalist system that (4) treats self-interest and greed as our most important social virtues.  This system (5) despoils the global environment while generating not only (6) intolerable levels of pollution but also (7) intolerable levels of inequality.  The result, he says will be a (8) progressive degrading of earth’s ecological systems which, while caused by the world’s wealthy, will (9) disproportionately affect the world’s poor.  The effects include (10) mass migrations away from destitute and dangerous regions, especially those ravaged by violence, rising seas, or lack of fresh water.  Such migrations are already being triggered by (11) the persistent terrorism in a world where resentful millions feel victimized by the power dynamics of post-colonial market systems--what Francis calls “the globalization of indifference.”

Connecting the dots allows the “big picture” to emerge: our status quo is already generating deep conflicts the will only get worse as the planet becomes less and less habitable. In this big picture, most of our biggest problems--inequality, the environment, refugees, terror, war--threaten to become intractable unless we act to change the very things that threaten the planet as well.

The solution to this massively dysfunctional global system, says Francis, is nothing less than a planetary ethical revolution that dethrones runaway capitalism as we know it and replaces it with a system that reflects more authentically humane values. He calls for an “integral ecology” that enables global development to be both humane and sustainable.

Thus at 80 Francis has positioned himself (and with him, the papacy) as the world’s most visible protector of the planet.  This also makes the papacy the world’s strongest voice challenging us to face the future of humanity--and especially the future of humanity beyond the prevailing capitalist model.

The United States is the world’s #2 carbon emitting nation, and short of aggressive action our commitment to last year’s landmark Paris accord will falter, and our nation will remain a prime contributor to the degradation of what Francis calls “Our Common Home.”

In this light, dear reader, forgive me if I lament the early signs that the Trump administration may be unwilling to face this challenge.  Its failure on this issue will condemn us to the ripple effects that Francis has already noted. Because of him, we’ve been forewarned, and we ignore him at our own peril—as well as the planet’s.

Next: Economic justice
© Bernard F. Swain PhD 2017

Monday, October 31, 2016

#459: Why Can’t We Make America Idealistic Again?—Part 3

The 2016 election has forced me to reflect on the many ideals that both our major parties—and my own generation--have abandoned.

My generation, children of the ‘60s, invented the “generation gap” by committing ourselves to fundamental change. We expected that when our turn came, we would change the world.  And we knew “the whole world is watching.” And now our time HAS come, and the whole world IS watching. What do they see?

 Now, so many years later, it seems to me that our generation has lost the capacity for idealism.  On issue after issue, our baby boomer leadership (in national office since 1992) has discredited new initiatives as “too idealistic”--meaning impossible to achieve--while allowing other nations to pass America by. In many fields, our allies in Europe and Asia and Canada and elsewhere have been inspired by our pioneering efforts. As I watch other nations embrace American innovations and build better futures on them, I ask myself over and over, “Why can’t we?”

This time I look at our investment in infrastructure and employment.
White Lake

I’m too young to remember the Great Depression, but early on I knew its effects.  We spent summer vacations camping at White Lake State Park in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and one day I overheard my father answer a visitor’s question about the pristine, powder-fine sand covering the beachfront and the lake bottom.

“It was the CCC,” he explained.  “They drove trucks out onto the ice in the winter, dumping hundreds of truckloads of sand.  In spring, the ice melted and the sand settled to the bottom.”

The CCC--Civilian Consolation Core--was one of a cluster of depression-era projects begun under FDR’s “New Deal.” Such projects brought four national benefits: First, they created jobs when millions were unemployed;  Second, they recycled tax money back into the economy as workers spent their new income;  Third, they reduced inequality by moving funds from those who could pay taxes to those who could not;  Fourth, they built things the country needed--roads and bridges, dams and public parks--that otherwise might not be built.

But such projects required massive government spending, and this meant bigger national debt, or higher taxes for some, or both. The will for such spending reflected the main ideal of the New Deal: to utilize the power of government to offset the economic damage and human suffering caused by the failures of the free market.  In a word, the New Deal took public action to mitigate the defects of capitalism.

In the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, this idea brought long periods of peacetime prosperity, low unemployment, a thriving middle class, and a robust expansion of our national infrastructure.  Roads and highways and bridges spread throughout the USA’s vast expanse as cars became the preferred mode of travel.  Private bus and trolley systems gave way to public transit in many cities. New state and national parks were opened.  Clean water systems proliferated.  As the population grew and expanded out of our city centers, our infrastructure—and our work force and its wages--grew with it.

Over the last 40 years, that growth has slowed.  Wealth once again has become more concentrated, real wages have fallen, taxes have been more regressive, and infrastructure spending has not kept pace with the aging structures we had built before.

By 2013, when the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) evaluated 16 categories of infrastructure, they gave out 11 “D’s,” four “C.s,” and only one “B”--for an overall score of D+.  U.S. spending on infrastructure had reached a 20 year low of 1.7% of GDP.  One result: our bridges, most built to last 50 years or less, now average 42 years old; 11% of them are structurally deficient and 14% more are obsolete. 

Our bridges and highways are suffering the effects of chronic under-funding: the gas tax has not been raised for 24 years, and the Highway Trust Fund is on the verge of bankruptcy.  The current rate of infrastructure decline could cost the economy 700,00 to 800,000 jobs over the next five years.

Meanwhile, our allies continue to spend on infrastructure. After World War II, the rebuilding efforts depended heavily on U.S. support, especially the Marshall plan.  But by now, updating and modernizing naturally requires continued high spending levels.  The difference is, they are doing it while we are not. 

Take the example of our oldest ally, France.  With a population less than 20% of the US, their infrastructure spending is more than 30% of ours.  And if you target specific areas, like rail, the spending gap is even greater.  France spends more than three times the US on rail infrastructure.  This month’s Amtrak crash--easily avoidable if speed-control technology had been installed--is but one example of the price we are paying.  Anyone who attempts one trip on US trains, and another on French trains, can readily see how far we’ve fallen behind.  

  If we look at another area, investment in roads, the US not only trails France but 7 other allies, PLUS Russia.  We just can’t keep up.

Why can’t we?

The head of the ASCE cites “inertia” as the explanation.  The US lacks the leadership, the political will, the courage to keep up with its allies, he says.

But inertia works both ways.  We are at rest, so we stay at rest.  Others are in motion, so they stay in motion and leave us behind.
 But we were once in motion too.  Why did we not keep moving?  Why did we stop?  Inertia cannot explain that.

It seems we lost the vision that fueled our motion.  FDR’s “New Deal” responded to crisis by taking action.  It established the ideal that the common good of the nation takes priority whenever and wherever markets fail.  It established the ideal of using public funds to maintain basic fairness.  It established the ideal of a social consensus to recover from depression, recover from war, and create the vast infrastructure, high employment, and steady growth that made our great nation grow.

When economic crisis hit again with the Great Recession in 2008, massive public works projects like the CCC and other New Deal initiatives could have provided millions of jobs to rebuild our infrastructure.  Instead, our roads and highways and bridges and dams continue to age and decline, and our rail system is a pale relic of its former self.  And as the example of Flint, Michigan shows, even our water systems are at risk.

Catholic Social Teaching makes the common good, and the universal destination of all goods, prime parts of its vision for a more humane world.  My generation once promised a commitment to those ideals.  But since 1992 my generation’s leaders have not delivered on that promise.

As our allies outspend us and build the modern infrastructure that their future requires, I have to ask:

“Why Can’t We?”
© Bernard F. Swain PhD 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

#458: Why Can’t We Make America Idealistic Again?—Part 2

The 2016 election has forced me to reflect on the many ideals that both our major parties—and my own generation--have abandoned. Last time I reflected on Transportation. This time: Education.

My generation, children of the ‘60s, invented the “generation gap” by committing ourselves to fundamental change. We expected that when our turn came, we would change the world.  And we knew “the whole world is watching.” And now our time HAS come, and the whole world IS watching. What do they see?

 Now, so many years later, it seems to me that our generation has lost the capacity for idealism. 

Far from fulfilling our mission to change the world, we have betrayed our mission by failing to even sustain the ideals of our past.  On issue after issue, our baby boomer leadership (in national office since 1992) has discredited new initiatives as “too idealistic”--meaning impossible to achieve--while allowing other nations to pass America by. We now risk leaving our country less idealistic than we found it!

Ironically, this does not mean that idealism is dead. In many fields, our allies in Europe and Asia and Canada and elsewhere have been inspired by our pioneering efforts. As I watch other nations embrace American innovations and build better futures on them, I ask myself over and over, “Why can’t we?”

This post is the second in a series that surveys such issues.  In each case, I reflect on our past embrace of idealistic change. I observe how we have fallen behind our allies as we have quit on that ideal while they have taken our place and sustained such idealism. In each case I ask “Why can’t we?”

This time I look at education.

Perhaps my idealism derives from where I live, since Massachusetts has in many ways been a land of idealism since its founding.
Boston Latin School Then....
 My three children are graduates of the Boston Latin School, the first public school in America, founded in 1635.  It was designed for Boston’s elite, and funded mainly by donations, but was followed in 1644 in Dedham Massachusetts by the first public school supported completely by taxes.  In 1820, Boston English School became the first public high school in America, offering a publicly funded 12th grade education to all.  And an 1827, a Massachusetts law required that all grades of public school be open to all students free of charge in every town and city in the Commonwealth.  This means that, for nearly 300 years, publicly funded universal education has been the law in Massachusetts.

This ideal soon spread across America, which became the first country in the world to establish universal public education for its people.  And for most of our history as a nation, we have led the world in literacy and the educational attainments of our population.

By the period immediately following World War II, the majority of Americans were achieving a high school education in schools that were free of tuition.  In addition, many others had access to professional training programs (such as the apprentice program in which my father trained during a 39 year career at General Electric).

Of course, over the last 50 years, a high school diploma has been losing its career value, as increasing numbers of Americans have gone to college. 

In most high schools across America, the majority of graduates are now going on to some college study.  Soon the majority of the working age population will have received a college education. College is now the rule, not the exception as it was for my father’s generation.

By now, for many careers, a high school diploma is no longer competitive in the workplace.  This means that, for most Americans, a K-12 education cannot provide the career benefits that it used to.  Yet the United States has not extended publicly funded, tuition-free education beyond high school. 

This means that our world-pioneering ideal of public education, providing free schooling for all, has been frozen in place since 1821!

The result is that the United States is no longer the leader in providing public education for its people.  Instead, our allies are bypassing us by establishing free (or heavily subsidized) higher education.  For more than a generation, this has been happening in Canada, France, Germany, and throughout much of Europe.  The result is that most young people in those countries can acquire a college education without acquiring any debt.

American students, by contrast, face the daunting prospect of assuming levels of debt comparable to the mortgage on a house.  I remember my shock when, as my oldest child entered college, the chief financial officer of her school predicted the day when entering freshmen would sign a 50-year loan to pay for their education!  The very image of an 18-year-old committing to debt that would last past retirement age boggled my mind. To this day, my European friends are horrified to hear of U.S. college costs.

So we should not be surprised, as our allies pass us, that more and more American students are leaving the U.S. to study abroad.  In 2012, 46,500 Americans were enrolled in degree programs in 14 countries. (NOTE: These are NOT “semester abroad” students who return to their U.S. schools; these students are receiving foreign diplomas). 68% of these were in the United Kingdom and Canada, with France and Germany close behind.

Germany has become especially popular because university study there, even for international students, is tuition-free.

Jeffrey Peck, the Dean of the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences at Baruch College, City University of New York, described the “ideal-gap” between Germany and the U.S.:

"College education in the US is seen as a privilege and expected to cost money and in Germany it is seen as an extension of a free high school education where one expects it to be provided,"

The Germans are not simply altruistic in this regard. The hope is to attract skilled foreign students who will stay in Germany. Sebastian Fohrbeck, of the German Academic Exchange, reports that 50% of foreign students stay in Germany.

Other US allies are nearly as generous.  Public universities in France, including the Sorbonne, cost approximately $250 per year of study.  Belgian universities cost $960.  Finnish universities cost $1500.  Italian universities cost of $1000, Spanish universities cost $1500.  And Norway, like Germany, is totally free.

Back home, the average cost of public universities for out-of-state students is $23,800 per year.  The average cost of private universities is $31,231 per year. The old idea of "working your way through college" has become a bad joke.

The results of such astronomical fees should not surprise us. Americans have accumulated $1.2 trillion nationwide in college-related debt.  300,000 Waiters and waitresses in  the United States are working to pay off such debt.  30% of such Americans are indebted despite having dropped out of school.  Altogether, 40 million Americans--more than the population of 200 countries--are burdened by college debts.

We’re now looking at an entire generation of Americans who are forced to choose between 3 unhappy options.  First: they may go without college and suffer the competitive disadvantage for the rest of their careers.  Second: they may get a college degree and carry lifelong debt for up to 50 years.  Third: they may go to a foreign country for less costly or even free study--and many of them will remain there, draining away the brainpower of our country.

Do not be surprised if the numbers who choose option #3 keep growing—many after dropping out of an American university due to its cost. (Ironically, the colleges rich enough to guarantee students they will have no debt are largely reserved for the highest-achieving high school students. In other words, we are back to Boston Latin’s model of school for the privileged elite).
.......and now: Boston Latin School today
 So while we were once first in education, first in publicly funded schools, first in educational attainment, first in literacy--now our allies have bypassed us, and we face the challenge of catching up.

Yet in our political life, in our public policy, the idea of “free college” is regarded as an impossible ideal--something it is unrealistic to expect or even campaign for.  We seem to be a people no longer willing to fund what the public needs.  We seem to be a people no longer capable of maintaining our own ideals.

And so, as I observed with transportation, so with education: I look around the world, I observe what our allies have been doing to pursue the very ideals that we originally inspired in them.  In so many countries where education was once a privilege reserved to a tiny elite of the population, our American experiment in public education inspired them to see education as a human right (as the Catholic Church teaches) and to invest in the spread of free education for all. And they have kept that ideal alive as times changed.

So as I observe what they have accomplished, and compare that with our failure to keep our own educational ideals alive, and hear so many fellow Americans proclaim that such a goal is romantic, naive, and unrealistic, I feel compelled to point to our allies’ real-life experience, their success at making the ideal a reality, and I ask the sad question that keeps coming to my mind: “Why Can’t We?”

NEXT time: Employment

© Bernard F. Swain PhD 2016