By Haleigh Zueger, Special to the Chronicle
"It is easy to be pessimistic about the state of the union, particularly if you are a younger person" said former Gov. Howard Dean in the opening remarks of the annual Arnold A. Saltzman lecture on the State of the Union. Dean was on campus on Wednesday, March 30 to address students and members of the Hofstra community at the Helene Fortunoff Theater.
The former Democratic presidential candidate focused his State of the Union discussion on domestic policy issues, citing the increasing wealth disparity in the United States, the corporatization of major media outlets and recent failures in the U.S. Judicial System as reasons that Americans should be concerned.
"Capitalism needs to be readjusted" said Dean, noting that in the past twenty years, there has been no increase in real spending power for the bottom 80 percent of income earners in the United States. According to Dean, this lack of wealth distribution will lead to an eventual capitalist demise, and that "real capitalism fails if benefits of capitalism accrue to smaller and smaller amounts of people."
Dean also pointed to recent court cases that have been decided on "political, not judicial grounds" as causes for concern. Suggesting a right-wing consorted effort to undermine the court system, Dean cited the recent decisions in Bush v. Gore and Citizens United v. Federal Election as embarrassments, adding that it is a "terrible blow to a country where you can't respect the court."
Additionally, Dean warned that Americans should be concerned about the evolving media outlets that threaten to debase the news. "Today we are expected to know what we want to know, not what we should know" said Dean, referencing major news networks' tendencies to broadcast or print stories that often lack real journalistic substance. "If it bleeds it leads," stated Dean, "because news is now about generating a profit; it appeals to what we want, not what we need to flourish."
Despite his initial concerns about the economic and social state of America, Dean concluded his speech with an optimistic outlook of its future. "Help is on the way" assured Dean, referencing the younger generations of Americans that he hopes will guide the United States to a sustainable future. "We will overcome this" said Dean, noting that the core decency of who Americans are as human beings is not changing. "We already have high principles, the key is resistance."