“Ladders of Opportunity”

Broken Ladder
Would you try to climb a rickety, loose, worn down wooden ladder with broken rungs on it?

That’s what a factory job is today. In 1940, -50, -60, -70, -80, and even in 1990 you could get a factory job and earn enough money. It might even have included benefits, been enough to buy a home, raise children, send them to college, and take a vacation along the way. You had decent odds at a promotion through hard work.

That type of ladder is still standing, in some cities, but it’s been trodden up so many times that it’s no longer safe. Some of those ladders relocated to other countries. The ones that remain have to bear the weight of even more people who want to climb them. (Population; increasing : # of factory jobs ; decreasing.)  A high school diploma no longer makes you qualified enough when the pool of applicants includes college graduates from all over the world – not just here in the USA.

President Obama often refers to the “Ladder of Opportunity” as he tours the country giving speeches about strengthening the middle class, and closing the ‘income inequality gap’. It’s also been called “The Great Divide,” which I find more appropriate. He’s right: the wealthy are getting much, much wealthier. The poor are growing in number faster than a viral YouTube video.

I’ve heard some Conservatives downplay this Great Divide. Do not believe that. They’re wealthy. But the Liberals & Conservatives who agree that there is a problem, President Obama included, are not emphasizing the fact that the best ladders are new ladders, not old ones.

Mr. President would probably agree with that; he’s well aware of new technologies and the opportunities they present. It’s just not the feeling I get when I listen to his speech. He’s stumping around, invoking ‘ladders of opportunity’ and ‘the American Dream’ of a house with a white picket fence as if this were 1950.

This is 2013. These are the some of the ladders for you and your children:

  • Coding. If you don’t code, make sure your kids do. It’s basically like English. If you can’t speak code, you are obsolete.
  • Service. Everyone can get the same products made cheaper or faster than you. You must provide a unique service.
  • Honesty. Whatever business you choose, you must be transparent. There are no more secrets. Everyone knows what the right price is.

There are others too. Go look for them in new places, not old ones. Even better: build your own. Nobody is handing out opportunity.

PS: A position at a big corporation can be a factory job too.

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