In a “One Big Tent America,” everyone deserves a fair chance to succeed. We shouldn’t trade in the legacy of the “New Deal” and “Fair Deal” for a Raw Deal. It follows from the Declaration of Independence that declared that “all men are created equal,” expanded over time to include all men and women. It follows from the Pledge of Allegiance that promises “liberty and justice for all,” not for a few or for most.
For some, it’s the 1 percent and “SuperPAC Deal.” For others, it’s the “Middle Class Deal.” In America, the land of opportunity, every American deserves the “Fair Chance to Succeed Deal.”
Notice the limits
Success is not promised. Some succeed; some fail. Only a fair chance is promised. It does not promise equality. People have different gifts, different capacities, different amounts of luck and pluck.
But we are a long way from reaching this goal. If you are born in Appalachia or in South Chicago, a fair chance at success isn’t the norm. Children are likely to suffer from inadequate nutrition. Preschool will not be available, schools will be underfunded, understaffed and overcrowded. Afterschool programs will be unaffordable.
A college education or advanced training is becoming more important and less affordable. The extraordinary can make it by juggling classes and jobs and taking on debt. But it is hard to argue that everyone has a fair shot at the middle class when many must take on tens of thousands of dollars in debt – an average of more than $25,000 – to get the education they need.
Healthcare also is essential for a fair chance to succeed. But our broken system rations healthcare by the ability to pay. Those with the money can get the best healthcare in the world. Those without go without. Healthcare reform was designed to ensure that almost all Americans have health insurance. But rollbacks of Medicaid and Medicare, and efforts to repeal healthcare reform put that at risk.
A fair chance is essential to the American dream – the belief that if you work hard, you can provide a home for your family, an education for your children and a secure retirement for yourself at the end of your working life. Now we learn that the U.S. falls behind other industrialized countries in upper mobility – and that your parents’ economic status is more likely to determine where you end up.
A job for everyone willing to work must be our first priority. Affordable health care cannot be a privilege. We can cut back on things that are less essential. We needn’t squander trillions on wars of choice. We can crack down on offshore tax havens. We can cut the subsidies to powerful corporate interests. Those who have done well in America can be asked to do well by America.
When it comes to a grand bargain needed to reduce our deficits, let’s start by ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to succeed.
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. is president and CEO of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.