Eighty years ago America was out of balance. The richest portion of the population controlled everything, while the 75% who were lucky enough to have any sort of work at all lived in fear and worked in terrible conditions.
Our parents, or grandparents, or great grandparents, depending on how old we happen to be, well, they fixed it. We got the New Deal — the Civilian Conservation Corp built parks and fair grounds we continue to use today. The Works Progress Administration put that 25% who had no hope back into the work force. And the Glass-Steagall Act separated commercial and investment banking, so your little deposit (and our economy) would be safe while the high rollers could take any risk they chose.
The Republican Congress swept the Glass-Steagall act aside in 1999, touching off an eight year orgy of ‘investment’. At the end of those eight years Lehman Brothers was permitted to go bankrupt, then the surviving four investment banks scampered for cover, turning themselves into bank holding companies protected by the U.S. Treasury before the market could turn them into expansive, messy footnotes.
America was sold a bill of goods — the idea that wealth somehow created jobs, and after thirty years of fetish-like support for this theory jobs have been created, primarily by exporting our wealth building manufacturing jobs. My father finished the ninth grade and retired comfortably on a disability pension after a work related injury. I’ve never been able to stop schooling myself, my disability four years ago rapidly led to being homeless, and after recovering and going back to work I find I make just a bit more than my dad did in the late 1970s.
Things can not stay this way. We face two choices as a nation — a vigorous reform movement like we had in the 1930s, or revolutions like the ones we see in North Africa and the Mideast.
Revolution is exciting and we had a great outcome with our first one, but prior success is not a guarantee of future results. We do that again and we’re liable to end up like Portugal, laboring for a couple of generations with some repressive, right-wing idea of what government ought to be.
We need to raise taxes, just back to where they were when Reagan was in office, not the astronomical 91% of the Eisenhower years. This will correct 75% of the deficit we hear so much about, and with it we’ll create jobs. Our Department of Justice needs a swift kick so it stops fooling around with baseball players and whistleblowers and starts dealing quickly and forcefully with the bankster crime wave that was set off in 1999.
We do this and things will get better. We don’t … take a look at Bahrain or Syria for an idea of what might await us.