Is the Great Recession over?
That's the question business writers have been asking this week as the Dow Jones has tip-toed up over the 10,000 mark. Experts say the indicators show the economy is moving into the plus side of the ledger. Officially out of recession territory.
The word is that folks in the financial industry, especially around Wall Street, are paying stunning bonuses -again.
Yesterday I opened my quarterly pension report, and because of the rise in the stock market I'm doing much, much better than I was a year ago. As I smiled at this good news, I realized that younger folks -who have not yet had a chance to contribute to a pension system over a working life of 20 or more years- aren't in such good shape.
There is a growing gap between those who have and those who do not. That's not just true in our country. The New York Times this morning carried a column about the growing gap in Russia between the affluent world of Moscow and the crumbling economies of old, Soviet-era company towns out in the far regions of the country. People in some places are eating grass to stay alive.
The growing gap between haves and have nots is seen in other areas. Bob Herbert's most recent column recalls the days when a family of four could reasonably afford to attend an NFL or Major League Baseball game. He remembers going to NY Jets games with his Dad and watching Joe Namath throw passes to Don Maynard and George Sauer. Now, we have athletic palaces like the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium where ordinary people have been priced out of the game.
I don't think the growing gap between rich and poor, the employed and unemployed, is a good thing. I wouldn't even pretend to have the answer since our nation appears -to a layman- to be near broke and heading towards really broke every day.
Can a country be strong and healthy and whole if a few prosper and many are left behind?
Paul talks, in the New Testament, about how we are all connected. Like a body. Hands and legs and arms and hands and eyes and ears - all a part of one body. So what one part of the body experiences has an impact on the rest of the body.
I don't know exactly what that says to a nation and world economy where the gap seems to be growing, but I believe it means we are all in this together. And that somehow even when my pension numbers are jumping up each month, shoving cash in my pocket, things aren't good if the families down the street are still distressed and hopeless. When I was in high school our civics teachers reminded us that the strength of America was a strong and broad middle class. Where ordinary people could afford to buy a home, a new car, and send their children to college.
What will we do to close the gap?