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Cafe Society to attempt to define and discuss progress

By Staff | Nov 11, 2016

The next Cafe Society’s session on Nov. 15 will try to define what the American people consider to be “progress” and determine in the transition period before the new President assumes office on Jan. 20, 2017 to what extent there is a mandate resulting from the election and to take the necessary actions to pursue that assumed goal.

The first challenge of course, is to accurately assess the current state of our domestic social, political and economic affairs, our national security, and America’s role in the increasingly competitive globalized world. In politics, as in medicine, diagnosis is a challenging process. Many times the patient doesn’t want to hear what the doctor has to tell him. Any comparative analysis is often cold comfort: “Well, we are doing better than most nations or other societies” doesn’t help much. And, the optimum regime of treatment may be more than the patient is prepared to bear, so we opt for palliative treatment rather than the necessary traumatic intervention. That is really where we are as a nation as we try to live with the result of the election.

Cafe Society discussions are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. each Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the Shepherd University Student Center. They are an integral part of the SU Life Long Learning Program. There are no fees or registration requirements.

Society facilitator, Mike Austin commented, “Despite two long years of arduous campaigning, the election has shed little light on the state of the nation. But if you take even a cursory look, there are troubling indications that all is not well and our national leadership, and we the average American citizens have to get serious about taking immediate short term measures, and seriously pursue pragmatic and long term courses of corrective action. And it is an effort a sustained challenge that we all have to face together. Having gone to the polls last Tuesday simply isn’t enough. Making adequate progress, if we can come to an actionable consensus on a course of action, and setting realistic priorities are efforts in which we all have to participate.”

Austin went on to say, “Progress, however we define it must include recognition that our society is fracturing into isolated segments that have no regard (call it empathy) for each other. The long range social repercussions are devastating. The ‘middle class’ has shrunk from two thirds of the American families in 1970 to less than half now. Most families have little or no savings and it is significantly worse for minorities. Most troubling, reportedly three out of five American families spend more than they earn. Of those who do have work (and over seven million white American men are no longer trying to find work) over half are making less than $15 per hour.

“This is the backbone of the nation that generates most of the fiscal resources to fund our federal and state governments. These are the taxpayers who carry a disproportionate share of the cost of sustaining those non-viable citizens who can no longer earn a living who suffer from what one author calls ‘learned helplessness.’ The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 8.8 million Americans are now receiving disability payments double what it was in 1996 and costing us $260 billion a year — more than the total combined cost of food stamps and welfare.”

Austin concluded, “It would be progress if we could restore the credibility of our legislative process and see prompt and thoughtful action on complicated national domestic issues such as: funding our government, adequate and truly affordable medical care, measured progress in protecting our environment, long range assessment and corrective action of the shortfalls in national transportation infrastructure, energy sourcing and power generation, conservation of vital natural resources (timber, water, and arable land) , and devise a national security strategy coherent enough that would allow our national command authority to build a responsive strategic and tactical force capability. Finally, and most important, we have to confront the debilitating elements of our life style including: alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse, obesity, lethargy, and deteriorating family life if America is to remain a viable contender in World affairs.