New Year’s Resolution for the American Middle Class

Hope and Change do not need to be relegated to the dust bin of political promises.  These are human aspirations that have always belonged to mankind and will for the foreseeable future.

2014 New Year Resolution

I don’t put much stock in waiting until New Year’s to put plans in motion for my life that I deem important.   But I suppose I have been guilty of such procrastinations at times early in my life.   Many of these plans have turned out to be efforts in futility.  Especially in light of the energy it requires to actually achieve our goals.  But dreams are part of the American DNA I suppose.  Somewhere deep inside those of us who are not born to the manor there is an Horatio Alger waiting to fulfill a rags to riches story.

When you’re young your future prospects seem endless.  As you age they begin to diminish but hope does continue to flicker even for most middle-agers.  By the golden years however many are left with regrets rather than any sense of fulfillment.

Prospects however for all age groups have lost their luster in this downturn economy where the corporate Grinch has stolen most of our dreams while enhancing their own lives.  Wages remain stagnant and financial security is slowly slipping out of reach for the majority of Americans.  If it weren’t for the entitlement programs of Social Security and Medicare they paid into all of their working careers many would have nothing to help cover necessary expenses to eek out an existence in their final years.

It doesn’t help either that many of these Americans are confused about why their economic status is poorer than it was a generation or two ago.  Some have been convinced by the straw man argument that government has robbed them of their future with high taxes and regulations that effect the cost of goods they need and want.

The reality though is that these are not the actions of government that have hurt low and middle-income working families.  It’s the influences behind government that have had this deleterious effect on our income.  Influences that kill the bargaining power of labor unions, beat off demands for a livable wage, restrain efforts to keep health care costs under control and send the higher paying manufacturing jobs over to cheaper foreign labor markets.

These influences have developed over the last 30 to 40 years, many in the form of so-called free trade agreements, through the engineering of neo-liberals and conservatives who have preached that unregulated free markets will create the tide that raises all ships.  They have promised that trickle down economics will provide the safety net of job security without government assistance and that by removing what they view as burdensome taxes, incomes will keep pace with our need to send our kids to college and set enough aside for a comfortable retirement for ourselves.

I think most people can see now that this illusion never materialized and that the likelihood that it ever will achieve it’s stated goal is a pipe dream.  Sadly however we have let this myth become so ingrained not only in our thoughts but in our institutions and policy making platforms.

The blame for this failure cannot be laid solely at the feet of those who pushed for this condition.  Those who helped build a strong middle class that evolved from the social democratic policies of the Roosevelt administration following WW II have failed to pass on to the next generation the skills needed to perpetuate this style of life that we all benefit from.  Ian Welsh cites three reasons why the Reaganites have been able to push through their agenda over the last few decades.  It was the 3rd of these that got my attention.

The great lions who created modern liberalism, who created the New Deal, who understood the moving parts were dead or old.  They had not created successors who understood their system, who understood how the economy and the politics of the economy worked, or even who understood how to do rationing properly during a changeover to the new economy.

The hard-core of the liberal coalition, the people who were adults in the Great Depression, who felt in their bones that you had to be fair to the poor, because without the grace of God there go you, were old and dying.  The suburban part of the GI Generation was willing to betray liberalism to keep suburbia, which was their version of the good life,  for which everything else must be sacrificed.  And sacrificed it was, and has been, because suburbia, as it is currently constituted, cannot survive high oil prices without draining the rest of society dry.    SOURCE

Take the term suburbia and replace it with today’s consumerism and it becomes clear how a generation that worked hard to overcome the obstacles put in front of them by Wall Street could slack off once their goals were achieved, falsely thinking that they had defeated those forces once and for all.  This complacency was passed on to many within the baby boom generation that followed. Yes, the battle was won but the war was far from over and the laissez-faire proponents would resurrect themselves by the 1970’s and explode back on the scene once they put their man in the White House in 1980 – Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Since then the wealthiest 1% of income earners have managed to control 40% of the nation’s wealth.  The children born to the baby boomers are less likely to see the economic job security their parents enjoyed and are also faced with a more serious condition where increased CO2 into the atmosphere from fossil fuels now threatens the global security of millions of people.   Anthropogenic global warming threatens not only the economic conditions vital to sustaining any reasonable way of life but promises to destroy the only place we call home unless we cease and desist on our relentless pursuit of consumption enabled by our exploitation of every fossil fuel reserve buried within the deep confines of the planet.

ALL GREAT VICTORIES HAVE EARLY SETBACKS

So now that I have drawn this bleak future, what is my stated purpose for recommending any kind of hopeful New Year’s resolution?  Because, perhaps, all is not as bleak as it may seem.  This renewed sense of better things to come is raised in the recent comments of Rebecca Solnit from her post on Juan Cole’s blog entitled Hope, History, and Unpredictability

“Hope” she says, “is a sense of the grand mystery of it all, the knowledge that we don’t know how it will turn out, that anything is possible.”

The seeds of this hope are already planted by the likes of those who gathered in Zucotti Park in September, 2011 to form the Occupy Wall Street movement, the large crowds who opposed Wisconsin’s Governor Walker and his GOP Party as they attacked labor rights and the people who filled the Texas state capital gallery to stand with State Senator Wendy Davis as she battled the hardliners who were working to shut down access to abortion clinics for unwanted pregnancies.  Yes, these attempts appear to have been unsuccessful presently, but in reality they have fostered a deeper and more enduring concern for the ideals they raised.

Everything we have done and continue to do will ultimately impact the future, be it tomorrow or several generations down the road.  Our efforts to stave off the greedy excesses of Wall Street and the profligate actions of the fossil fuel industry seem to have made no dent up to now.  But that may be because we expect change to come at a pace faster than the “arc of justice” will accommodate.

North American cicada nymphs live underground for 17 years before they emerge as adults. Many seeds stay dormant far longer than that before some disturbance makes them germinate. Some trees bear fruit long after the people who have planted them have died, and one Massachusetts pear tree, planted by a Puritan in 1630, is still bearing fruit far sweeter than most of what those fundamentalists brought to this continent. Sometimes cause and effect are centuries apart; sometimes Martin Luther King’s arc of the moral universe that bends toward justice is so long few see its curve; sometimes hope lies not in looking forward but backward to study the line of that arc.   Rebecca Solnit, Hope, History, and Unpredictability

Perhaps we are not the harvesters we feel we should be but are more the ones who sow what will ultimately bear fruit for future generations.  Much of what will happen between these periods before ideals and ideas are transformed into action will expose many powerless people to even further deprivations.  Ultimately however those who fight selflessly today will wound up on the right side of history as the moral compass of humanity corrects itself.

So, I resolve this New Year to keep up the pressure on those who would tear down the strong middle class my parents built for me.  I resolve to build bridges rather than walls and help create a market place that puts people on an equal footing with profits and that can sacrifice self-interests when it becomes necessary to sustain that culture of we over the culture of me.

betterfuture

I resolve that I will not let the flame of hope die in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and will serve as a conduit for the next generation to fight for what is just and humane, for their children and their children’s children.  I refuse to let hope that aspires to achieve “peace on earth, goodwill towards all” perish in my lifetime and will do everything in my power to see that my children value these things more than the darker desire that demands consumerism be that “which everything else must be sacrificed.”

We are where we are today by virtue of actions and inactions alike  Outcomes result from concerted efforts by individuals motivated to achieve group goals or through the failure to work in unison, allowing the status quo to have its way with us as individuals. Without hope there is no desire to change.  Without persistence there is no evidence of change.

“Justice is built up from every second and every moment of life.”   – Maria “Masha” Alyokhina, Pussy Riot band member

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10 responses to “New Year’s Resolution for the American Middle Class

  1. This dissatisfaction with the grotesque wealth being concentrated among just a few is growing – it might be bubbling underneath the surface, but it’s there and it’s not going away. It has taken decades for Wall Street to get its hands around our throats, so it will take a while for people to gain back control.

  2. I have hope in people like Elon Musk, visionaries who seem to understand the human condition and have vowed (with their own resources) to take it to the next level. Musk’s plans for a Mars colony inside 20 years is awesome, and it’ll only be with huge projects like this that the flame burns.

    • Yes the social benefits of Musk’s style of entrepreneurship is hopefully something that will expand over the coming years but I would also like to see the cooperatives grow where workers are the investors and owners of a business and ensure a more level playing field for labor in general.

  3. I too think we are on the verge of a great populist uprising the likes of which havent been seen in decades. People are starting to get it–starting to realize that those that have everything want it that way, and they control government. Once that great cosmic awakedness occurs, well, things will be changing very quickly I believe. It won’t be a violent thing, people will just openly laugh at the Ted Cruz’s and Palin’s and simple elbow them aside and get on with creating a fair country again…one were everyone has a chance, and those who are unable, for whatever reason are given a basic decent life. I do believe it…I always have.

    • “Once that great cosmic awakedness occurs, well, things will be changing very quickly I believe. It won’t be a violent thing, people will just openly laugh at the Ted Cruz’s and Palin’s and simple elbow them aside and get on with creating a fair country again…”

      I don’t know Sherry. I’d like to think we can move forward without violence but the opposition will hunker down and when they do the only way that some will see to dislodge them is through violence. It will take the violence like we saw during the civil rights era and the Vietnam war protests to get the general public’s attention and rouse them to that “cosmic awakedness”, IMO.

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