Peter Schrag on “Equity is the Superior Growth Model”

This post is part of a series presenting equity leaders’ reactions to “America’s Tomorrow: Equity is the Superior Growth Model” — a new paper that challenges the nation to invest in our collective future. This post is by Peter Schrag, retired editorial page editor and columnist of the Sacramento Bee and author of several books, including Paradise Lost: California’s Experience, America’s Future, Final Test: The Battle for Adequacy in America’s Schools, and Not Fit for Our Society: Nativism, Eugenics, ImmigrationClick here to read other reflections.

The most troubling thing about “America’s Tomorrow”, with its powerful message and graphic documentation, is that it had to be written at all. For the better of a century, economists from John Maynard Keynes on have been trying to tell us that equity – the capacity of ordinary people to buy the things that a prosperous economy can produce — and thus their ability to earn a decent income – is the necessary foundation of economic growth. It’s a lesson we learned in the Depression and have since too often forgotten.

And as this paper so vividly demonstrates, the ordinary people of the next generation and the years beyond will increasingly be men and women of color. They will be the people who have to replace the retiring boomers, buy their homes, pay for their retirement and health care, and lead their communities and the nation.

If they are not educated and trained to the myriad tasks they will have to perform, the nation – and the children and grandchildren of boomers – will fall into a painful downward spiral whose end no one can now predict.

So far we are not providing that education at anywhere the level of adequacy our times require. On the contrary, in too many places, both in Washington and in the states, attempts are being made to choke it – in essence to roll back a clock that can’t be stopped. We do so at our peril.

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