Friday, July 12, 2013

When will we stop pretending?

 A lot of Americans are angry.
Fanatics stand in front of women’s health clinics and scream in the face of couples forced to lose a child in what must be the most painful time in their lives.
    Congress and state legislatures cut food subsidies for hungry children. Unemployment checks that help families weather a time of limited job opportunities are cut off mid-recession.
    This week, the U.S. Senate failed again to ensure that students struggling to pay the skyrocketing costs of college are not also hit with interest rates that exceed those paid by corporations and governments. Too many profit-making schools take that loan money and then fail spectacularly to graduate students or provide training that will actually produce a job. Too many of these schools soak up veterans’ benefits or grant-subsidized tuition funding and leave students short of degrees or real-world training.
    When will we Americans stop pretending that we have a country where hard work and education pay off with a sustainable middle-class life? We traded that decades ago for cheap and disposable goods manufactured by underpaid and poorly treated workers in other countries.
    The process began when American companies were dismantled because the assets and available cash were more valuable to financial whiz-kids than the thousands of jobs lost and hundreds of communities broken in their wake.
    It continued as companies broke unions, off-loaded pensions, and made sure they never had to pay benefits because they hired all their employees “part time,” ignoring the reality that those paychecks couldn’t possibly support an individual, much less a family.
    When will we stop pretending that we even have a middle class?
    Income differentials have grown in the United States over the past five years due especially to stagnant wages and devastated housing values. Middle-class average incomes have risen just 1 percent a year since 1979. The gap between incomes and profits continues to widen as stock prices, executive compensation, bank bailouts and lack of government oversight guarantee that the handful of haves are doing better than ever while workers and the small businesses that employ them struggle in an anemic economy.
    We were here before during the Great Depression, and we know the way out. It involves strong social safety nets, regulations to level playing fields, and focus on the greater good, rather than narrow ideological purity.
    We know the way out of anger, frustration and economic malaise if we just stop pretending and start doing.

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