Senator Josh Hawley gave a speech about American life that was a reminder of the social and cultural problems that don’t have an easy political fix. Columnist Michael Brendan Dougherty concludes that the Missouri senator might be “the most interesting thinker the U.S. Senate has seen since Daniel Patrick Moynihan.”
The senator first denounced what he called the American “oligarchy.” We as a society feel lots of discontent, often bred by those in power. And it is a wonder since we are the most prosperous of nations but also “so troubled in spirit, so rent by division, so anxious and uncertain.”
He also reminds us of the two types of inequality that we see in society. The first is the economic divide concerning wealth that Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren often describe. “The top 10 percent of the country’s earners control 77 percent of the country’s total wealth.”
The second inequality can be found in the difference between a high school diploma and a college diploma. Recently I cited the book by Charles Murray who documents that a bachelor’s degree now earns twice the median income of the high school degree.
The senator also laments what I have often called the “deaths of despair.” Sadly the number of young people (15-24-years-olds) committing suicide is greater numbers than any other time since the government began tracking the data over 50 years ago. Suicide rates for girls and young women “have doubled during the 21st century.” And “a death from drugs or alcohol or suicide occurs every four minutes in this nation.”
What I find so interesting is that Josh Hawley is at least the third senator in the last few months to identify some vexing problems in society that really can’t be solved by passing legislation in Washington. Solving them requires a spiritual revival not a political revolution.