21st century Tom

For Your Consideration

editorial@sierrastar.comApril 29, 2014 

When an incumbent Congressman representing 711, 815 Californians in our Fourth District, comes to Oakhurst and well under 50 folks show up for his widely promoted "Town Meeting Hall" - something's up. All that was missing was the chirping of crickets. I have no idea what or why.

But such was the case April 23 at Oakhurst Elementary School as Congressman Tom McClintock (R- Elk Grove) came to town.

I briefly and pleasantly spoke with Mr. McClintock prior to the start of proceedings. He referenced the fact he was familiar with questions concerning his tenure raised in my Sierra Star column of April 17, and assured me he was prepared to address them in his talk. Other than concern expressed over last year's costly governmental shutdown of Yosemite, he pretty much ignored the rest.

With national interest suddenly focused on our district thanks to an Easter Sunday article in the New York Times about Art Moore's Republican challenge to McClintock in this year's race, I couldn't help but raise my hand Wednesday to introduce that issue, as well.

McClintock's response was a somewhat bristling — "Peter, as I said, this is not a political meeting."

Remaining puzzled even now by exactly what that was supposed to mean and what I might have missed in his introductory comments which seemed to define exactly the opposite, he was still kind enough to offer a fairly involved accounting of anecdotal examples citing Democrats who were going to challenge him, only to drop out — several "at the last minute."

Even more puzzling is how an articulate man of obvious intelligence can maintain a perfectly straight face when he pronounces such inane craziness as "the government taking over one-sixth of our economy" with The Affordable Care Act. That's astoundingly wrong.

All in all, nothing truly important, innovative or even interesting came down last week, but I salute Representative McClintock for coming by and energetically staging his full presentation as advertised, despite what must have been deeply disappointing attendance.

What we all should have been talking about was "Capital in the 21st Century" by French economist Thomas Piketty, still the hottest selling book on Amazon.com, remaining a solid No. 1 last week after spending its first 40 days in the Top 100.

Piketty reviews data from 20 countries spanning decades of economic trends and patterns as far back as the 18th century. Ultimately, extreme inequality stirs deep divisions of discontent that severely undermine democratic values, not only here in America, but around the globe. Piketty doesn't believe capitalism is doomed or that ever-rising imbalance is inevitable, but argues solutions cannot be independent of politics. He feels both the left and right should examine powerful solutions mutually agreeable and cooperatively obtainable.

Right now, here at home, Piketty writes: "In terms of income generated by work, the level of inequality in the United States is probably higher than in any other society in the past, anywhere in the world. If current trends continue, the consequences for the long-term dynamics of wealth distribution are potentially terrifying."

I've just ordered a copy of the book for Mr. McClintock. Next time in Oakhurst, it would be extraordinary hearing him explain how, among the 20 most highly developed nations on earth, the United States indisputably has the most extreme wealth concentration of all. The top 10% of our population are holding 75.4% of the goodies — and that's not because the rest of us aren't working harder than ever just keeping the bills paid, the kids in school and the dog fed.

But we all have our challenges, even Congressman McClintock. It's hard discussing fair play when one represents the rich.

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