Fletcher: The ups, downs of an economy headed through the locks

Last night I started to write this column and toward the end of the very long epistle managed to dump the whole thing. It was too long for one column anyway and so this is the first of columns on the same subject.

Picture the Welland Locks. This is a series of five locks used to raise and lower boats and ships from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. Now picture the oceans of the world, continually changing with the tides rising and falling. These are the two views of income disparity in the U.S.

President Barack Obama believes the economic strata of our economy is static and his view of mobility between economic income levels is that each are trapped in their own lock and can’t move because the gates won’t open to allow passage. His view is that we must let the water out of the top lock to make the levels equal.

President John Kennedy had served in the Navy and had a good appreciation of water. He said of an economic plan that treated all levels of income relatively the same that: “A rising tide raises all boats.” Kennedy knew that there was mobility from the lowest level to the highest level and he believed that motivated folks could improve their lot in life in his vision of America.

A recent news story cited a Harvard economist who found that mobility throughout the economic strata is no different today than it was in the past.

Of course both presidents were Harvard guys so this must have some credence.

The “class warfare” card being played in Washington would be believable if there was no mobility within the system, but as that Harvard economist’s study found, it isn’t true.

What concerns me is a shift of wealth that is occurring at the top of the income scale and how that impacts our country’s position in the world. When I was growing up I was always proud to be a citizen of “the greatest country in the world.” I am unapologetic to anyone about this. By the accident of my birth in this time and place, I am a citizen of the best country the world has ever seen. You are too!

What I’m going to write about is the social changes in the country and the economic differences between now and the time JFK faced off with the Russians over the Cuban Missile Crisis. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Over the next few weeks I’ll explain how the economic top is now further than it ever was from the economic bottom. All of this has to do with the respective structures of society and the new global economy.

Now, just briefly about the things learned during my time away from writing this column. Contrary to the view at The Doctors Hunting Club, Joel Bauer can shoot. He shot his limit two days in a row of Woodcock in Minnesota with me and, I’m thinking, perhaps, some of my limit too. The jury is still out on that.

I know now that you can shoot as many ducks in Mexico as in Canada but you do it without shivering. I discovered that if you shoot Mountain Quail in Idaho that the terrain only goes up. I know that there is an anomaly there, that there should be down too. It’s just not that way.

Thank you for the time off to do this research.