Our founding fathers attempted to form a more perfect union, by writing the Constitution. The Bill of Rights helped to memorialize in writing, our rights as citizens. My parents generation took the part of the constitution dedicated to promoting and providing for the general welfare seriously by passing legislation that provided the American people with a social safety net. Social Security was passed to help secure through an insurance trust fund, a retiremnet plan guaranteeing that the elderdy would have something in their retirement years. During the years that followed other legislation was passed that protected and provided for the general welfare including the G.I. Bill, which helped to educate those soldiers who came home from World War II, and the Progressive Era ended with Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps for the poor. All of those pieces of legislation promoted and provided for the general welfare for all. America and Europe learned from the past and set about to provide for a less risky world both home and abroad. America and the world has never seen such a successful economy in the history of the world.
Our Constitution and our social democracy have been under attack since the Reagan administration and it has been especially under attack with the advent of the so-called Tea Party. The social safety net that our parents, (The Greatest Generation) forged is frayed with the intent of the Ayn Rand, and Social Darwinists followers, being to dismantle the social democracy that our forebears fought so hard to provide. What we have become in the subsequent years, since President Reagan is a nation best describe by a quote from Oliver Goldsmith.
“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey; Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.” Oliver Goldsmith wrote that in the “The Deserted Village.” We are a nation of villages, towns and cities. Some villages are so small all they have is a post office and a general store. Our village will be deserted if we continue on a path where the only important thing is the search and accumulation of individual wealth. You can only have so many things but can we truly be happy with this obsession for wealth?
At the end of World War II, my parents generation, forged by the twin tragedies of the Great Depression and the war, came home and built a country the envy of the world. We were a great manufacturing nation and our middle class became the largest in the history of the world.
Unions helped to build that nation, unions worked hard to provide a livable wage for workers as well as benefits hard earned benefits, such as work place safety and pensions, as well as health insurance.
Now the influence of unions has diminished and with their demise, wages have gone down, pensions have nearly disappeared and China nearly makes everything we buy. As the saying goes there is something rotten in Denmark.
Just the other day I read that warehouse workers were even being denied a break for water no matter how hot the weather was. One worker was fired for complaining that his forklift had no brakes.
It is not a coincidence that the demise of unions has coincided with the lowering of our wages.
Some people would blame unions for our problems. But let us be honest we are all to blame. We have been sold on the idea of buying cheaper goods. But buying things that are cheaper has a greater cost in the long run.
The United States makes fewer goods. Our wages are lower, the talk is out there to bring back child labor. Other countries like China, makes things for less because their wages are much lower. Is it all worth it if our standard of living goes down because we are so centered that the only thing that matters is whether it is cheaper at the store.
If our wages continue to go down, we will reach the tipping point when our wages will not be enough to pay for things made somewhere else; where they not only have cheap labor but work place safety is non-existent, environmental protection does not exist and child labor is permitted.
The topic today will be a continuing source of discussion. Since the Reagan days, we have had continual economic crisis of increasing strength, from the Savings and Loan debacle to the latest Banking disaster of 2008.
As Franklin Roosevelt discovered greed needs to be regulated and managed in order to protect capitalism from itself. Most economists believe that another financial crisis is likely to occur. Will we be able to save our way of life or will we go over the edge and have another Great Depression?
I believe like Roosevelt that we need a second bill of rights, but let us save that for our next article.
Let us work to save capitalism by improving it. Let us work together to save the American middle class and our way of life.
We are sold on the myth of the rugged individual, the Marlboro man riding the range free, unencumbered by responsibility but to himself. But we are really a society, a community of families and individuals dependent on each other.