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COLUMN: A Malat Musing: Worth the Fight

Updated: 05/06/2014 1:37 PM
Created: 03/12/2014 4:10 PM KSTP.com
By: Phil Malat

"Inequality for All" is the official Facebook page of economist and author Robert Reich.

The following is a post from Wednesday, March 5.   

It is offered because it is an excellent and extremely accurate perspective worth your consideration.

"How many of you recall a time in America when the income of a single school teacher or baker or salesman was enough to buy a home, have two cars, and raise a family? That used to be the norm.

For three decades after World War II, we created the largest middle class the world had ever seen. During those years the wages of the typical American worker doubled, just as the size of the American economy doubled.

More than a third of all workers belonged to a trade union -- giving average workers the bargaining power necessary to get a large and growing share of the large and growing economic pie (now, fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers are unionized).

CEO pay then averaged about 40 times the pay of the typical worker (now it's over 300 times).

In those years the richest 1 percent took home 9 to 10 percent of total income (today the top 1 percent gets more than 20 percent).

The tax rate on highest-income Americans never fell below 70 percent; under Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, it was 91 percent (today the top tax rate is 39.6 percent).

Some of this money was used to build the largest infrastructure project in our history, the Interstate Highway system; some to build the world's largest and best system of free public education, and dramatically expand public higher education.

We enacted the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act to extend prosperity and participation to African-Americans; Medicare and Medicaid to reduce poverty among America's seniors; and the Environmental Protection Act to help save our planet. And we made sure banking was boring.

Then came the great U-turn, and for the last thirty years we've been heading in the opposite direction. The collective erasure of the memory of that prior system of broad-based prosperity is the greatest propaganda victory…the privileged have ever achieved.  But the fact we did it then means we can do so again -- not exactly the same way, of course, but in a new way,  fit for the twenty-first century and future generations of Americans. It is worth the fight."

            
I grew up in a middle class neighborhood.

The McGraw's (4 kids), the Magneson's (6 kids), the Scott's (6 kids), the Hass' (4 kids), the Malat's (5 kids) and everyone of those families, as well as the other families in that neighborhood could provide for their families,  own a house, buy a new car every couple of years, take a family and a couple's vacation every year.  They could put their kids through college, had enough discretionary spending to enjoy hobbies (boating, golf, fishing, snow skiing, ball games) and save enough money for a comfortable retirement.  This was accomplished by dad working the same job in the same profession for 20 to 30 years while their wives could stay at home and work at the toughest, most important, most rewarding job in the world - being mothers and care givers to their families.    

The year was 1960 when the average or median family income was $6,691. Ten thousand dollars was considered an exceptional income and provided an excellent living.

Those who never witnessed or experienced this reality live under the delusion that America is still a great country.  Not anymore.

"It sure used to be.  We stood up for what was right.  We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws, for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not on 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 we cultivated the world's greatest artists AND the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, 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.  We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed…by great men, men who were revered.  First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.  America is not the greatest country in the world anymore."                        

--From the television program "The Newsroom"

Yes - It certainly is; "…worth the fight."

Phil Malat is a columnist for KSTP.com.

Photo courtesy of Phil Malat

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