Okay…so I know that Chris Brown has a song entitled “Stuck on Stupid,” but my reason for using that phrase has quite a different origin. This past Sunday in church I was sitting beside another “regular,” and I asked where he was from (Cincinnati) and then how he got to St. Paul, MN (he fell in love with a Woman in the Airforce [WAF] who was from St. Paul) and , finally, how different St. Paul was in the early 1960’s. At that time, the city was alive with streetcars, trolleys, electric busses, etc. All were eliminated shortly thereafter as cars became the normative vehicle of choice, and the rest is history. Now it is costing hundreds of times as much to begin to return to a more eco-friendly and efficient means of public transportation. In short, he defined the many cultural and political decisions we have made in the last 40 years as being “stuck in stupid.” For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives our country a D+ in how we have taken care of our infrastructural needs. In the next 5 years, we need to spend $3.6 trillion just to bring them up to a reasonable standard (for comparison, we will spend almost the same amount in the next 5 years for military and veteran’s needs). Here in Wisconsin, 71% of our roads are in poor or mediocre condition; we have 1157 structurally deficient bridges, we have 252 high hazard dams, etc.
Of course, there are many more “stupid” things we have accomplished: 1) The United States is now the most unequal in distribution of wealth among all the advanced economies of the world and near the bottom when compared with all the countries of the world. In fact, 75.4% of all wealth in the USA is owned by the richest 10% of the people; 2) The United States is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee paid vacation and one of only 13 countries in the world not to do so, according to the World Policy Analysis Center at the University of California Los Angeles; 3) In 2014, according to the Commonwealth Fund, the USA is again ranked highest in cost and lowest in quality among the 10 most comparable countries, namely and in order: a)United Kingdom, b)Switzerland, c)Sweden, d)Australia, e)Germany & Netherlands (tied), f)New Zealand & Norway (tied), g)France, h)Canada, and i)United States.
And surely there are easily dozens more of examples, but perhaps the best constructive reminder as we are about to begin a new year under new leadership in the US House and Senate is the reminder from Theodore Roosevelt that “in any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” Change is difficult, not changing is disastrous.