As we approach the end of a neo-liberal era and enter a new progressive era, some key questions need to be asked. Where do we go from here is a good starting point? In order for us to move forward it would be wise to understand how did we get to this point in history.
The Baby Boomer generation, or at least some of them took off their peace signs and their love beads and tuned into making money. Perhaps as a reaction to the turmoil of the 1960’s, the Baby Boomers, became interested in pursuing material things. The primary goal became obtaining wealth. We turned our backs on what had made America great and prosperous in the years that followed World War II, and it became all about me and not about what was good for the community. Success was all about the size of your house or how many houses you had.
I remember my daughter coming home from a friend’s house and asking me why couldn’t she have a TV in her room. I kindly mentioned to her that she could come downstairs to watch television when her homework was done. Life became a challenge where out doing the Jones so to speak or your neighbors with the biggest and latest car was a symbol of how successful you were. Life has more meaning to it than asking the question how much did it cost rather than asking the question of what value does it have.
As a nation we have lost our way. We no longer have a government that represents the people. We have a government-owned and paid for by corporations. The lessons of the past have been forgotten. The 1920’s were another period of time when the public put their faith in business. Laissez faire was a cross that politicians prayed to and relied upon. If you only left business do business without governmental interference all would be well. Lower taxes and less government was the order of the day. Income disparity was huge between the rich and the rest of us. Well, we saw how that turned out.
John Stuart Mill hit the nail on the head when he said,” No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible, until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.” In other words things will not improve until we recognize that we are not alone on this planet and we have to think about things differently. The so-called greatest generation understood this and they set about putting into place institutions and a way of life that was intent on preventing in the future what they had lived through. They did not want their children to ever experience the pain of the Great Depression or the horrific war that saw an estimated 50 million people die.
And how has the materialistic, all government is bad, trickle down economics worked for America. Poverty has increased with little chance of moving out of poverty and into the middle class. The gap has grown tremendously between the middle class and the top 1 1/2 percent of the wealthy. Children today lack the intergenerational mobility of my parents. Faith in our governmental institutions to improve our lot in life is at an all-time low. People are not happy with their lives. Depression, mental illness, obesity, alcoholism, ill-health, infant mortality and our life expectancy as compared to other western nations is pathetically low. We see long-term unemployment increase, we see globalization move jobs across the sea and older workers abandoned to lower wages for younger workers and women still work for less than men do for the same job. We are to put it mildly worse off than we were before 1975.
Our moral compass is askew. We like to think that America is a Christian nation. Materialism is so prevalent now, we are witnessing mega churches praise the idea of becoming wealthy, claiming that Christ would want you to be. Somehow, the lessons of Jesus regarding the money changers, symbolically dressing in simple clothing and warning of the difficulty of attaining heaven if you are wealthy have been ignored or forgotten.
Christ teachings of charity, mercy, taking care of the poor and loving thy neighbor have been forsaken. Materialism is so ingrained the apologists for the wealthy have found it necessary to claim that the current Pope is a Marxist, in order to justify their own screw the other guy before he screws you attitude.
We don’t ask the right questions as to why we are the biggest consumer of drugs or why does this country see guns used to such a great degree?
Reactionaries today, do not seek to conserve anything but their own
self interest. Their politics of destruction is a bankrupt philosophy. They want to end Social Security and Medicare.
So where do we go today, to regain the faith of our youth that government is relevant. Too much government may be bad but too little government is worse. Nature abhors a vacuum.
Workers are not takers. People who take a risk and start a business need workers. No one in America who works full time should be in poverty or live in a car. Henry Ford paid his workers $15 dollars a day in the 1920’s, to make sure they made enough money to buy a car. These days, more and more workers work part time, with lower wages. They are increasingly are replaced by robots and even if they work more than one job, it is not enough to live a life worth living. It is no wonder that more and more Americans find themselves without hope. Without the American worker, the employer would find it difficult if not impossible to make their products.
Increase the minimum wage and raise the taxes on the very wealthy to increase revenue so that we may train workers to try to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the workplace.
America is a place with where we have many communities. As we go forward we need to replace our attitude of it is all about me and be more about us, our communities.
One area of reform could be to rethink corporations. Corporations seek to reward their shareholders. If their workers felt that their job was more than just a place to get a paycheck, their production might very well improve. In other words, giving workers shares in the company they work for, and thereby having a greater sense of family could very well improve things.
Today, many workers feel like they are nothing other than cheap labor, slaves to their employers.
We hear the right-wing talk about the importance of property rather than the importance of equality. We will never see absolute equality, that should never be our goal. But greater income equality can only be good for our nation.
For some reason we are more concerned about security, the fear that outsiders will harm us. We see the loss of our freedom for the sake of security whether it is in the form of cameras or listening into our phone conversations.
We need not worry about freedom if our people are secure in the knowledge that they have a future worth living. There is a place for government to help secure a better future for our people where unemployment is far less of a threat than a terrorist blowing himself up. But today we worry more about others who may seek to harm us than we do about the right to health, the right to a good job or a roof over our heads. That is nothing but a recipe for disaster. We are more threatened by weakness from within than we are threatened by terrorists. Let us be secure in our strength rather than lose our freedom to fear, whether it be a fear of change or a fear of outsiders.