If you get up each day, go to work, struggle to make ends meet, watch for sales at the stores and worry most about the education of your children, then you are a working person. People don’t need or want much. A decent place to live, a chance to eat out occasionally, and family vacations each year. This is what people want. This is what many of us knew growing up. Post World War II saw families achieving these types of objectives, buying a home, buying a car, driving through the countryside on a Sunday afternoon. Now we worry so much about the cost of anything and everything, it is so much more difficult now. Why?
The post world war period had a more concerned and active public sector. FHA and VA actions assisted people in obtaining mortgages to buy homes. Home construction was booming making thousands of homes available. The automobile in mass production allowed us to be the most mobile society ever. The federal government committed to building the interstate highway system. Mandatory public education created a workforce to fill jobs. Scientific research was eliminating diseases like polio and sending people into orbits around the earth and beyond. I have ask why and how did that change?
The fifties produced a booming economy and not the economic downturn anticipated at the conclusion of WWII. The huge return of Veterans instead of producing high unemployment resulted in people getting jobs. Construction was increasing and unions provided jobs with training,good wages and benefits. Manufacturing was converting from a wartime production mentality to a peace time mode. Automobiles were rolling off the assembly line instead of tanks and jeeps. Europe and Japan lay in ruins while the American Marshall Plan went into gear. Jobs with decent pay checks boomed as America helped to rebuild the destruction in Europe and Japan. Jobs to rebuild and repair our own infrastructure were created through the federal interstate highway system. Jobs, good paying jobs, not all union but many required paying the prevailing wage which approximated the wages of organized labor. It seemed that everyone rich and poor, entrepreneurs, corporate executes, those people carrying lunch boxes to work each understood, there is no need to make a product if no one can afford to buy it. What happened to redirect all this energy?
The mood of the country was changing. The Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement both had some negative impacts. A war people didn’t understand and legislation helping people was viewed as creating an advantage for certain groups. This legislation was and is essential but some cynical people played on fear to build a power base. Shame on them for doing that and on any of us for accepting it. Recession and unemployment began to raise their ugly heads. These same cynics blamed high wages being paid to workers. The slippery slope was getting steeper. Right to Work became a catchy phrase by many politicians. It wasn’t then and isn’t now a right to work. It is an effort to eliminate organized labor and collective bargaining. Corporate profits increased as workers wages stagnated or declined. As if that wasn’t enough added money for corporations, these same businesses moved to non-union, right to work States with reduced wages and benefits. The profits increased more. Word got out that moving some manufacturing overseas would maximize profits. Some of the off shore countries treated workers like the 1850’s in this country and Western Europe. The conditions of the industrial revolution were coming back, just not here. Work force decline had other factors including automation, new methods of doing things and technological advances. How do we return to the real good old days.
We all need to evaluate what our elected officials tell us. The recent tax reduction hasn’t helped working people but has filled the corporate coffers. Right to work States have lower wages generally. Even minimal government action can help in training and jobs. No public sector action may appeal to the super rich and corporations but leaves working people with nothing. Telling people not to worry the jobs are coming back is false just as telling coal miners coal is coming back. If we believe these distortions it works to the advantage of the super haves. If we believe that manufacturing jobs and coal will again create jobs then there is no public out cry for job training and better paying jobs. I’m tired of this pie in the sky story and don’t worry our turn is coming. It’s not happening unless we make it happen. We, working people, need help and change just to get to where our parents were. That’s not much to ask, but it is enough and that’s all we want. We can get it at the ballot box in November.