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PROSPERITY: Economic Policy | September 5, 1994


An Unpublished Letter to Los Angeles Times

In "Economy Keeps Improving, Why Aren't Clinton's Polls?" (Opinion, 9/4), Walter Russell Mead points out that "rising GDP no longer means a higher standard of living for the majority of American households" and asks "Does anyone have any suggestions?" Here are a few that cannot be overlooked.

Politically, to be blunt, there's just too much money in too few hands; and the rest of us -- who must buy the lion's share of the nation's goods and services -- are left fighting over the scraps: A genuinely progressive income tax and a union movement amongst service workers today as vital as that amongst factory workers a century ago would promote not only fairness but also prosperity.

Technologically, "real wages started to fall in 1973" just as the price of energy -- and, thus, the cost of all goods and services -- started to rise dramatically. Even today, just the fear of renewed inflation prompts the Federal Reserve Board to raise interest rates and, consequently, deem 6% unemployment "acceptable".

Historic increases in standards of living have come only after harnessing new sources of energy: Fire empowered prehistoric encampments; beasts of burden, the first farm communities; slaves, ancient civilizations; the water wheel, Renaissance Europe; coal-fired steam, the Industrial Revolution; and petroleum, the 20th Century.

For the foreseeable future, there is no safer, more inexhaustible alternative than solar energy: Nationally and internationally, we must develop both Earth- and space-based systems to reap the trillions of dollars' worth of solar power that goes to waste every year.

Politically and technologically, standards of living can rise only if we bring "power to the people"!

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