"'Making sure these kids have a shot at the American dream like I did is very important,' [Boehner] said, choking up."
Egan then does a great job of listing all the things that are designed to help people have a shot at the American dream, but that John Boehner has voted against. Time and again Boehner's actions, his votes, have been obstacles to people achieving something greater.
To me, this is the great challenge to America in the 21st century. The slow erosion of social safety nets and the lock-step aversion of the Republican party to consider new social safety nets will allow the rate of disparity to continue apace.
I doubt John Boehner will cry when presented with the statistics that show a consolidation of wealth at the highest tiers of earners. It's easier to get teary-eyed at the abstraction of the American dream, then to dry your eyes and help make it a reality for people.
UPDATED: h/t to Matt Yglesias for pointing out this peice in The New York Times by David Leonhardt. Mr. Leonhardt makes a point I couldn't quite put to words and does so eloquently:
It's easy to look at the current debate and see an unavoidable trade-off between this country's two economic traditions - risk-taking and security. but I don't think that's quite right. I think it is ultimately as misplaced as those worries about Social Security and Medicare equaling Bolshevism.
Guaranteeing people a decent retirement and decent health care does more then smooth out the rough edges of capitalism. Those guarantees give people the freedom to take risks. If you know that professional failure won't leave you penniless and won't prevent your child form receiving needed medical care, you can leave the comfort of a large corporation and take a chance on your own idea. You can take a shot at becoming the next great American entrepreneur.
To me, this is precisely why we need social safety nets. In most policy debates we are given this false choice between individual ingenuity and government coddling. Leonhardt hits on the point quite nicely that some sort of economic backstop can free people to take the big swings and aim for the fences.