May 25, 2013
Where Are We Heading—Bedford Falls or Pottersville?
Posted on Dec 23, 2012
By Robert Reich
This post originally ran on Robert Reich’s Web page, www.robertreich.org.
It’s easy to feel discouraged about the bullying by right-wing Republicans and their patrons over everything from gun control to taxes and social safety nets to trade unions and jobs.
Every year about now I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” again to remind myself what Frank Capra understood about America — its essential decency and common sense.
In many ways the nation is better than it was in 1946 when the movie first appeared. Women have gained economic power and reproductive rights; we enacted civil rights and voting rights and, through Medicare and Medicaid, dramatically reduced poverty among the elderly; we began to tackle environmental devastation; we stopped treating gays as criminals and have even started to recognize equal marriage rights. We elected and then re-elected the first black president of the United States. We have enacted the bare beginnings of universal healthcare.
But we are still in danger of the Pottersville Capra saw as the consequence of what happens when Americans fail to join together and forget the meaning of the public good.
The Mr. Potters are still alive and well in America, threatening our democracy with their money and our common morality with their greed.
Call me naive or sentimental but I still believe the George Baileys will continue to win this contest. They know we’re all in it together, and that if we succumb to the bullying selfishness of the Potters we lose America and relinquish the future.
Robert B. Reich, chancellor’s professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, was secretary of labor in the Clinton administration. Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including the best-sellers “Aftershock” and “The Work of Nations.” His latest, “Beyond Outrage,” is now out in paperback. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.
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