” No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” Adam Smith.
What we are living through is a time when America’s middle class is declining and those that are poor are increasing.
For America we are at a crossroads. We can choose to move forward and stop what appears to be the decline of America or we can wallow in our misery. The American people have always been an optimistic people and it is my belief that we can reverse our direction and have better days ahead.
Let us not kid ourselves, life could be a lot better. Congress is dysfunctional, the gap between the top 1 and 1/2 percent and the rest of us is the greatest since the days leading up to the Great Depression. Our bridges are collapsing, employment is stagnant, our infrastructure is in need of repair and rebuilding, our education is in disarray and we lack the collective will to do anything about it.
For children of what has been called the Greatest Generation it is hard to imagine living under the conditions of the Great Depression. I am a child of parents who lived through the Depression. For my children it is probably incomprehensible what is was like.
My Aunt never had a store bought dress during all of those horrible years of the Depression. My parents collected things. They never threw anything away. They were like pack rats, believing that there might be another depression around the corner. They remembered what it was like during wartime when mutual sacrifice was an act of patriotism and rationing was required.
For children who were born after the baby boomers, unless they grew up in a home of parents who were or are impoverished, they have been spoiled. They have lived lives with unimaginable wealth, with multiple TV’s in their homes, and days at the mall.
I find it interesting that today’s conservative or what I call reactionaries are experiencing a large case of amnesia or selective memory loss. My parents generation and the generation in Europe, swore to put into action protections for their fellow citizens to prevent both another Great Depression and another World War.
What was developed was a system of social democracy that put together a social safety net. Our leaders learned the lessons of the past and realized that we are part of a community, whether we live in a small town in the country, or in a city, we are part of a nation, the USA. The one thing we had in common with each other is that we are all Americans. When you share a foxhole together, what political party you belong to does not matter too much. For those who were in government in the post war years they pitched in together to try to make life better for the returning veterans and for those who had won the war at home.
They provided education for returning veterans in the form of the G.I. bill. Returning veterans had help regarding the purchase of homes through government sponsored loans through the FHA. We were united with the goal of preventing future wars and future depressions.
Unions were strong representing the American worker. Social meant we were part of something greater than ourselves, that we are part of a society, a community, and that we are in this life together as one nation under God.
Our nation enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. We paid for things through our taxes and were proud to do so. The tax rate under President Eisenhower was up to 91%. Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway system with new roads and bridges which are now at the limit of their lifespan.
Today, Republicans call the social part of social democracy welfare. They describe assistance to families and persons in need as a handout. They will tell you that statists have created a system of government that carries with it a burden, a financial burden on future generations by having a safety net. The right wing of the Republican Party and the Tea Party seek to remove the safety net and destroy social security and Medicare.
They have resorted to the use of name calling to belittle those who need assistance. The right wing refer to those on assistance as users, takers, and lazy people, as if those who had lost their jobs on purpose. The word benefits has been used as a negative, as somehow those who are out of luck and out of work are not deserving of help. In general there is a lack of human compassion as exhibited on occasion during the Republican primary process when TV debates occurred. Cheering erupted on several occasions in reference to food stamps and those with disabilities as if the audience wished that those in need would just die.
When millions were put out of work in 2008 at the beginnings of the Great Recession, it was not due to anything they did wrong. It was the banks on Wall Street who through their speculation and greed set in motion the Great Recession.
We’ve heard the call for the end of unemployment insurance as Republicans in the House have repeatedly dragged their feet when it comes to funding the necessary assistance to keep people alive and with hope. We’ve seen the call to defund food stamps.
The attitude of some towards the unfortunate and needy reminds one of the days of the Social Darwinist’s who believed if you were poor you deserved to be poor.
It must be easy for people to claim that assistance is bad if they have never lived through hard times.
For thirty years, the right wing of the Republican Party has steadily worked to dismantle the accomplishments of the Greatest Generation. This effort must cease. We are destroying what made us have the greatest prosperity any society has ever known.
The obstructionism we now see is treasonous and it is destroying America. American exceptionalism is a thing of the past. We see cities in ruin. The rust belt is decaying. Our sense of community has devolved into every man and woman for themselves. Political party success is viewed as being more important than the interests of the nation.
The vulture capitalists of today make the robber barons of the past look fantastic. At least the robber barons were philanthropists. The robber barons left us with industries and libraries. The vulture capitalists of today are leaving us with empty factories, broken spirits, and with little hope for the future.
The right wing ideologues and corporate apologist’s are in league with the vulture captitalist’s as we witness the willingness of letting more and more jobs be outsourced. They use the lame excuse of it being the result of free enterprise. Well, there is nothing free about it, when our future is being sold out for short term profits. The golden goose, the American consumer is being sold out.
Our sense of community has devolved into every man and woman for themselves. They play to our selfishness and our greed so that we willingly watch the destruction of our way of life before our very eyes. We allow ourselves to be hood winked into believing that we too can become millionaires as long as we allow fewer regulations.
We can turn that around. A verse from a Greek Anthology should give us reason to pause. ” A shipwrecked sailor, buried on his coast, bids you set sail. Full many a gallant bark, when we lost, Weather the gail.”
We, too, can weather the gail, and recall the days of our gallant spirits and optimism as we traverse a sea and a nation, full of anxiousness but full of courage to face our challenges.
We must regain our confidence and be imbued with the knowledge that if we become pragmatic, once again, we can regain our course, and right our ship of state.