Sound bites on diversity and Facebook pics of recent fundraisers, where candidates safely emphasize their "non partisan" inclinations "for the betterment of our community" are gaining momentum as we enter the fall.
The real political commodities, such as more constructive criticism of a sleepy and possibly conflicted common council that is waiting to be re-anointed by a shockingly low voting population, filling our vacant storefronts, or critical thinking on how to better integrate Summit's working poor into our community, are in alarmingly short supply.
Over the past 25 years, the U.S. economy has grown over 80 percent, after adjusting for inflation, and the typical family’s income hasn’t changed much. It used to be that when the our economy grew, workers from CEOs to assembly line workers saw their incomes increase. A postal worker and hairdresser could put their children through college without accumulating an alarming amount of debt. But instead, because of a host of misdirected national economic policies (from both sides of the aisle), which failed as "pro-growth” with misallocated tax credits, median household net worth is back to what it was in the 1960's.
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This is clearly evident in Summit's significant (approaching 20%) ALICE (asset limited, income constrained, yet employed) population, which includes our yard workers, house cleaners, child care workers, home health care workers, "minimum wagers," and day laborers who are effectively invisible to those who employ them at what they know are barely livable wages.
These workers are essential to the functioning of Summit as a viable community, as we rely on them every day. How do we keep this population stable? What happens if they falter and lose the modicum of financial stability they have and become truly marginalized? Is that when we realize that, we too, here in Summit, and in New Jersey, invested only for the short term? It was the great Sam Rayburn who said: "Do not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good action; try to use ordinary situations."
The future success of Summit is directly tied to the financial stability of ALICE households - not only locally but state wide. If the ALICE population suffers and is forced to make difficult choices, we as a community will also suffer.
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