It recently occurred to me... 1945 to 1970 were the zenith of the United States of America. It was our absolute pinnacle. We were never going to be any purer, or any better than the people that we were in this 25 year time period.
Sure, there was some corruption, there were things to be ashamed of, and some pretty evil behind doors double-dealing; but overall... The best that we ever were going to be...
I think no one said it better than Jeff Daniels when he gave a speech to some college students on a panel discussion he was a part of in his HBO series, "The Newsroom":
...you're going to tell students that America's so starspangled awesome that we're the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom, Japan has freedom, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium has freedom. Two hundred seven sovereign states in the world, like 180 of them have freedom.
Point to a girl in the crowd who asked him, "What makes America the Greatest Country in the WORLD!?!?"
And you—sorority girl—yeah—just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world. We're seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt, a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don't know what the fuck you're talking about?! Yosemite?!!!
We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right! We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn't belittle it; it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn't scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one—America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.
It's a "Yikes" moment when you realize that these are facts being spewed by a fictional character on a fictional show. Maybe this is what helps us digest these little tidbits of information. We start off thinking it's all bunk for a bogus television show, until you start looking them up... In the end, all you can do is say, "Dammit".Let's talk about this economic recovery we're in.
Does it feel like a recovery?
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) writes this about our recovery:
"A fundamental promise of America is that work will be a ladder to economic opportunity and an anchor of economic security for working families. But that promise has unraveled over the past three decades. Globalization has combined with domestic policy choices to yield an economy that creates too many low-wage jobs and not nearly enough good ones. Lax enforcement of workers' rights, increased subcontracting and misclassification of employees as independent contractors, and failed immigration policies have heightened insecurity for all workers. Inequality has grown to historic levels, the middle class is imperiled, and many fear our best days are behind us."
I think we can replace the word "fear" in the last sentence with "know" now. And it's true. My brother was a machinist in the early 1980's making about $20.00/hr. Not a bad wage for 30 years ago. He bought a house, and lived a middle class life. Now he's a technical instructor at a trade school that teaches young men to be machinists. How much does he make there? About $20/hr. He supplements his income by also working at a machine shop that manufactures and repairs automobile axels. How much does he make there? About $20/hr. Wages for these trades are not moving. Yet. That $0.99 Big Mac from McDonald's now costs $3.49, and the $0.99 gallon of gas now costs $3.99. It's just a big slide backwards.
Speaking of McDonald's... Look in one sometime when you're ordering a burger. Take stock of how many teenagers you see running the store versus how many adults and middle-age/elderly adults you do see behind the counter. Why? Because. No where else to go. When your company globalizes, moves out of town, state, country, and leaves you with a severance package of 3 or 6 months pay, where else are you going to go? McDonald's or Walmart is oftentimes people's only choice, unless they are mobile, not tied to a house, and are capable of leaving their blighted area and looking for work elsewhere...
What am I really trying to say? We're on a slide downhill folks. Your Democratic and Republican parties have sold you out to their highest bidders: Corporate Lobbyists. This country really is ran by this hidden, unseen corporate lobbying arm that calls all the shots. They hedge their bets, and fund all political groups equally. By doing this they expect equal treatment from whichever group is in charge of the Congress, the Senate, and the White House. This Corporate Lobbying arm of government has a message for all non-corporate, non-executive members of the American Public (the 99% and below): More for us, less for you. They'll get everything they want. More tax breaks for them, less social safety net for you and your family. Our country is slowly being dismantled, and sold off to the highest bidder, and hey... If you end up on the streets, that's awfully sad, but you need to realize that there's always going to be some collateral damage along the way.
To end... I see a lot of thugs online bashing people who claim to be getting the short end of the stick. These guys point at people having a hard time and say things like, "You're just not working hard enough", or "Look at me - I made it, so stop making excuses for yourself", and "That's what your ilk does, go looking for handouts". Hard work and effort is the mantra of the America I knew between 1945 and 1970. It was so absolutely true. The sky was the limit, hard work would get you on the ladder and hard work would propel you up the ladder. That ladder, today, is absolutely creaking under the strain of an industrialized nation shipping blue-collar, manufacturing jobs overseas. Our transition from a nation with manufactured products into a nation that primarily deals with information has been painful, and a lot of people have fallen by the wayside because of this transition. The ladder is broken for many, the rungs are missing for many more, and sometimes it's just a race to stay in one place (much less start the rise up the broken ladder of the faded American Dream).