Wealth disparity is a constant political talking point, and to be sure, the gap is wide, made even greater by advent of technology’s new billionaire class. Yet, the great majority of Americans are arguably wealthier than their counterparts in the wealthiest nations. Even the poorest Americans are wealthier than the richest Americans 100 years ago in many different ways.
J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller did not have access to so many things that we now take for granted. These obscenely wealthy titans could not fly to visit family across the country as commercial air travel had not yet begun. The list of automation and inventions to which we have access – from inexpensive computers, smart phones, TVs, and even self-driving cars – would have boggled the minds of the most wealthy individuals 100 years ago.
Simple medical inventions we take for granted like Penicillin had not been invented. Indeed, despite his age and suboptimal level of health, President Trump survived something similar to what easily could have been his downfall 100+ years ago during the 1918 Spanish Flu. Think this is hyperbole? The son of sitting U.S. President Calvin Coolidge died from a blister on his toe in 1924 just a few years before Penicillin was invented.
Yet, no one today would say that the poorest among us are wealthier than J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller or Calvin Coolidge. Americans who struggle to put food on the table for their families may have access to modern amenities, but they exist in a very tenuous position dependent on the government and the kindness of others.
Yet ask any immigrant why they came to America, and they will expound upon the opportunities presented here that simply do not exist elsewhere. They came to this country often with nothing but a hunger to work, prove themselves and make a better life. Many Americans born here take this concept for granted, but some of our most fervent patriots – those newly arrived on our shores – do not… and neither did our ancestors who made the voyage here once upon a time.
The rising tide of capitalism lifts all boats (and the myriad of technological innovations previously mentioned only serve to prove that) and is certainly better than the alternative – just ask those who emigrate from Venezuela, Cuba, and various other regions of the world where capitalism and democracy are filthy words in their autocratic regimes.
While our government managed to put bipartisan squabbling aside several times during this pandemic to help those businesses and workers who are struggling, there are many acts of kindness where Americans help their neighbors that simply go unreported. Americans have consistently been the most charitable nation by nearly every metric for many years. I am fairly certain this time is no different.
Helping is ingrained in our collective fabric – no matter how negative the media portrays our country today. It’s as ingrained as the opportunity this country offers to those who are willing to work hard and dream big. That kindness, hard work and those big dreams are constants that produce positive change from incredible ingenuity… continuing to power the country forward.