Here’s a few things I’ve noticed over the decades. When the cotton mills still existed in the American South there was a very strong anti-union sentiment. Many of the poorest and most backward states are also among the most conservative states. Highland County, Ohio suffered some of the lowest unemployment figures during the recent recession yet it almost always votes Republican.
The Republican Party prides itself for its conservative stance on major economic issues. In today’s race for the White House their candidates go to extremes to show that their conservatism is the more extreme of everyone else’s conservatism. Of the sixteen GOP candidates still in the race not a one has a platform plank that places worker’s rights ahead corporate rights. Not a one favors equal pay for women, paid sick leave, worker’s right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, paid company health insurance, or wages that are above the poverty level. Such is the nature of conservative policy yet so many working-class Americans see their best interest being served by this.
Since 1980 American wages have steadily declined or remained stagnant. The middle-class has declined, medical care is increasingly not a part of the job, pension programs have disappeared, job security is almost non-existent, and union membership is at a major low point.
Another major result has been the almost record increase of wage discrepancy, Where the working wage in America has remained mostly stagnant the wealth of the upper-class has risen almost 200 percent. The adage, “The rich grow rich and the poor poorer,” is almost as true today as it was at the turn of the 19th century.
What changed during the 20th century, bringing about the world’s largest middle-class, was the rise of organized labor and the acceptance that government has a duty to act as the referee to ensure a fairer division of the nation’s wealth. It was the passage of things like the Wagner Act which created the National Labor Relations Board that gave working people the right to take part in deciding the conditions of their employment
In today’s America, however, many of the things that created the middle-class are under attack. One of this morning’s headlines reported that GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker was now calling for the end of unions in America, the universal passage of right to work laws, and shutting down the National Labor Relations Board. Walker isn’t doing that well in the polls but he is backed by the big money of the Koch brothers and they have never shied away of their disdain for organized labor and worker rights.
While I can’t project the future I can be concerned about it. I don’t have all the answers but I do have some of them and they are found in knowing where we once were and how we changed that. The concern comes from knowing so many of us are willing to support those politicians that have, are, and will destroy what made us so great. The average American has never benefited from conservative economics. Trickle down just doesn’t trickle.
What gives me hope, however, is the ever-growing popularity of Bernie Sanders. Sanders is one of the few presidential candidates who actually does have a platform and much of that is aimed at rebuilding and protecting the American middle-class. Do yourself a favor and visit Bernie Sander’s website and briefly study his platform. As you study each point ask yourself the question, will I benefit from this? Is this in my best interest? Let your sincere answers to those question guide your decision and not what may be your blind ideological devotion to how you’ve always done things.