What do we really value?

By Edith Morgan

Edith and Guy

Many years ago, one of the weekly magazines ran some public service ads dealing with the topic: what we really value is what we are willing to pay for. It went on to compare what we pay athletes, actors and entertainers vs. soldiers, teachers and our astronauts.

Does it seem to anyone else that our monetary reward system is completely upside down and that we pay the most vital jobs the least money and those least important the most money?

Our society, our whole species, would die out completely very soon were it not for parents – especially mothers, whom we celebrate with candy and flowers on Mothers’ Day every May. Yet parenting is unpaid work (and if you have ever done it and done it well you know it is years of 24-hour a day work of all kinds) and, while we give lots of lip service to motherhood, we as a nation do not put our money where our mouth is. The U.S. is way behind most civilized nations in its care of children – we are still “nickel-and-diming“ early childhood care, day care, pre-school education and proper healthcare for all our children and families.


We expect these services to be rendered free or for very little money, while we can always find billions of dollars without a question for yet another weapon of mass destruction, for yet another multi-billion-dollar massive aircraft carrier. Meanwhile we have millions of our children who are unsure where their next meal is coming from.

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Many children in America live in poverty. 1 in 5 is “food insecure.”

Those who perform the really vital services in our society are paid the least: If the garbage is not collected for even a week in New York City, it piles up and the rats take over. When the schools closed because of a deadly virus, parents were frantic to find things for their children to do at home. The au pairs and governesses who actually raise the children of the rich are poorly paid, and teachers are expected to do the work of instructors, social workers, psychologists and guards – and to supplement school supplies out of their own pockets when school taxes do not stretch far enough.

But we can afford to pay millions for athletes, stadiums, ever more expensive automobiles and toys to amuse us – and gadgets galore to fill our hours. We reward those who do the least work (at the top – or who inherit and did nothing to earn their position).

And more and more we are “privatizing” vital services, taking the power away from the public and transferring it to those for whom only the profit motive matters. And so we have come to depend more and more on the charity of individuals who work hard to help those they see are in need. But that is a “finger in the dike operation” – for every leak in the social fabric that opens up, several new ones appear. We cannot continue very long to depend on the kindness of strangers and, while we teach our children compassion, sharing and kindness, it is not enough.

It has been written that we have the best Congress money can buy – and unfortunately for too many of our elected officials on the national scene, that is true. When I came to America in 1941, there were two kinds of elected officials: the politicians and the statesmen. It is not too hard to tell who is what. We know who are the real public servants and who is in it for power and money.

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Is it not time to really get the devotees of the Golden Calf out of our government?