For Americans, these are the best of times and the worst of times.
The stock market is booming, economic growth has jumped to 3 percent, and headline unemployment is near 4 percent. However, too many capable adults remain out of the work force or stuck in dead-end jobs — more reliant on government and private handouts to keep roofs over their heads, feed their children and obtain health care than at any time since the Great Depression.
Increasingly, Americans are divided between the coastal elites — those who attended selective universities and garner high-paying jobs in finance, technology, medicine, government and supporting services — and the rest of us.
When the Clintons and Democrats in Congress complain that most of the benefits of growth are going to folks at the top, they are surely right. Over the last two decades, median household incomes have been more or less stagnant but the inflation-adjusted costs for middle-class essentials like college, health care and housing have zoomed. Meanwhile, upper-income Americans have outwitted it all and become more prosperous and culturally distant from the great masses.
Many Americans are handicapped by mediocre educations whose skill content is more appropriate to the pre-digital age and more fundamentally, by upbringings in rural communities and small cities — places where good jobs have been laid waste by Asian imports, automation, farm consolidation and desperate immigrants. Or in urban ghettos — places where broken families and expectations for government largesse and corporate favors mirror the worst days of populism in Mexico prior to NAFTA.
Those communities share in common terrible social infrastructure — poor schools and transportation, shortages of physicians, lack of affordable high-speed connectivity…