By Emily Badger
The decision to move is an intensely personal and revealing one. We move homes because we lost a job or found a new one, because a new child was born or an older one finally left for college. We move because we have to, following a foreclosure, or because we can afford to, in search of a nicer place.
So many of life’s milestones — good or bad, qualifying for a first mortgage, surviving a hurricane — are accompanied by a moving van. In the aggregate, this means that we can add up all of the reasons why Americans move in a given year and glean something about what’s going on in their lives, and even, by extension, the economy.
Take the the 35.9 million people who moved between 2012 and 2013, according to the Census Bureau — either just down the block, into a new county or much farther away. Data from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey reveals that, among their householders, 8.4 percent moved last year in search of cheaper housing. According to the data, 1.8 percent moved because of a foreclosure or eviction. Asked to pick the one reason that most contributed to their decision to move, 1.6 percent said they moved to look for work or because they lost a job.
Americans don’t have a common ancestry. Therefore, we have to work hard to build national solidarity. We go in for more overt displays of patriotism than in most other countries: politicians wearing flag lapel pins, everybody singing the national anthem before games, saying the Pledge of Allegiance at big meetings, revering sacred creedal statements, like the Gettysburg Address.
We need to do this because national solidarity is essential to the health of the country. This feeling of solidarity means that we do pull together and not apart in times of crisis, like after the attacks on 9/11. Despite all our polarization, we do accept the election results, even when the other party wins. People in New York do uncomplainingly send tax dollars to help people in New Mexico. We are able to assimilate waves of immigration.
National solidarity is especially important for the national defense. Men and women serve in the armed forces for a variety of reasons, but one of them is the awareness that it is an extraordinary privilege to be an American, that it is a debt that needs to be repaid with service.
The Tea Party is five years old this election season, which means it’s done teething and spitting up on itself, but still prone to temper tantrums, irrational outbursts and threats to take its toys and storm off if it doesn’t get its way.
As a movement, it is down to a couple of former talk-radio hosts running for office in two states of the old Confederacy, Texas and Mississippi. And in the latter, the Senate candidate, Chris McDaniel, has given a keynote to a group that considers Abraham Lincoln a war criminal. It’s not hard to make the case that the Tea Party has been distilled down to it logical essence.
“They don’t want to go to the moon,” said the comedian Bill Maher. “They want to howl at it.” Still, the Tea Party has also been around long enough to have a record, of sorts. Let’s look at the legacy:
Maybe it’s me, but the predictable right-wing cries of outrage over the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules on carbon seem oddly muted and unfocused. I mean, these are the people who managed to create national outrage over nonexistent death panels. Now the Obama administration is doing something that really will impose at least some pain on some people. Where are the eye-catching fake horror stories?
For what it’s worth, however, the attacks on the new rules mainly involve the three C’s: conspiracy, cost and China. That is, right-wingers claim that there isn’t any global warming, that it’s all a hoax promulgated by thousands of scientists around the world; that taking action to limit greenhouse gas emissions would devastate the economy; and that, anyway, U.S. policy can’t accomplish anything because China will just go on spewing stuff into the atmosphere.
I don’t want to say much about the conspiracy theorizing, except to point out that any attempt to make sense of current American politics must take into account this particular indicator of the Republican Party’s descent into madness. There is, however, a lot to say about both the cost and China issues.
I’m all for protecting the environment, whether it is the particles that are sent up into the air we breathe, the methane emissions into our air from the waste of millions of animals, the coal sludge stuff that careless companies allow to seep into our waters or chemicals that are released in various ways near population centers.
Does the environment merit yet another op-ed, Professor? In normal times, I would enthusiastically say yes! Today, however, is far from normal and while the air we breathe is still important in the here and now and the future, what comes first for me is making sure that there is a safety net and work for those millions among us who can’t meet their most basic obligations.
To read the rest of my comment, click here.
Curated from www.nytimes.com