Almost 50 years ago, “Deep Throat” gave Washington Post investigative journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward advice so fundamental that Americans, both journalists and ordinary citizens, have found it useful ever since. “Follow the money,” whispered the thenanonymous source in the murky depths of a Washington, D.C., parking garage. His admonition resulted in the only presidential resignation in American history, at least so far.
Money both ebbs and flows, so let’s take a look at some that is flowing — or soon will be.
China, with whom President Donald Trump and his family have conflicted relationships, has granted Ivanka Trump preliminary approval for five additional trademarks. These involve sunglasses, child care centers, wedding dresses and brokerage, charitable fundraising, and art valuation services.
Ivanka’s supporters argue the trademarks are necessary to protect her famous name from others who might seek to capitalize on it. Critics say that a Trump asking a foreign government for valuable trademark rights opens the door to pressure from that nation in all sorts of government negotiations. It unquestionably lays out the welcome mat for lucrative business possibilities in the future.
That money faucet is poised to flow.
Money also ebbs, even disappears, for both individuals and entities. The Public School Forum of North Carolina, a nonpartisan advocate for public education, charged this month that reduced funding to traditional public schools in favor of charter and private schools has undermined public education for millions of North Carolina students. The vast majority of our children are in traditional public schools. The group urged the General Assembly to “renew North Carolina’s commitment to public schools for the public good.”
Said Lauren Fox of the Public School Forum, “Recent policy decision have served to discredit, defund and devalue our state’s public education system.”
Rural North Carolina also suffers from a money flow that has morphed into a money trickle from both public and private sources. Some small towns and rural areas are highly creative in making their communities unique in some way to combat the increasing concentration of resources — cultural, educational and monetary — in growing urban areas. Others are flattened by the lack of opportunity that sends their young folks to “the big city,” be it in North Carolina or somewhere else.
Our state, once known as “Variety Vacationland,” is blessed with one-of-a-kind nooks and crannies from Murphy to Manteo and Tuxedo to Turkey. Our travel dollars would be well spent giving ourselves special memories and helping prime our small towns’ money faucets.
And, money does indeed grow, even if not on trees. Increasingly, in the United States and other developed countries, wealth is concentrating in the coffers of the few while the many accumulate debt.
Statistics abound and vary, but virtually all find that the richest are getting richer. CNN reported last year that the top 1 percent of Americans now hold 38 percent of the nation’s wealth, up from just under 34 percent a decade ago, while the bottom 90 percent holds about 23 percent of the wealth, down from 28 percent.
Within those numbers are significant racial and ethnic gaps. The Pew Research Center reports that since the Great Recession of the last decade, white families continue to hold more wealth than other demographic groups.
In addition, while we may not know the exact numbers ourselves, we do understand our economic system is not working for many of us. The World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, this month released polling results. They reveal that Americans, along with people in other developed nations, are losing faith in capitalism. Nearly two-thirds of Americans surveyed no longer believe our economic system is a path to upward mobility.
“Deep Throat” steered the intrepid reporters toward criminal activities that changed the course of our nation and made millions of Americans distrustful of our government. The ebb and flow of money is not usually criminal, but it affects all of us, and we should be aware of when and how. We should also press for policy changes when we believe they are needed.