I’ve entertained the idea of writing about the current situation in our country for some time and two things converged to make this seem like the right time.
The first one was my new friend Gene Kleg giving me a book called “End Times”. The book goes into excruciating detail about the many ways society gauges how successful the common people are over different periods in history and the myriad reasons for the success or failure of this largest segment of our society.
The second being Rich Elfers’ recent column about American capitalism’s focus on workers.
Another thing that sparked my timing was the series on MAX called “The Gilded Age” about the last time our country experienced the huge disparity in wealth that we are again experiencing today.
The end of the last gilded age was brought about more or less peacefully by the realization by our society as a whole, i.e. government, corporations, and the people, that too much wealth in the hands of a very few was not good for the country.
This realignment of wealth took place over several decades from around 1900 until the end of WWII. Until the Reagan administration, our country enjoyed the greatest and largest middle class in history.
Unfortunately Reagan was responsible for many of the worst policy changes in our government that have had horrific effects on our country presently. The worst was “Trickle Down Economics”: if we give corporations and the wealthy tax cuts, the disproportionate wealth created by these policies will trickle down to the rest of the country. Nothing could be further from the truth as recent history has shown.
He also repealed the Fairness Doctrine, which ensured that both sides of any controversial issue had to be presented on public airways, and the firing of the air traffic controllers union. This in turn gave rise to corporations also eliminating labor unions from our labor force over several decades.
Before Reagan, labor union representation was around 35% which pressured other business to pay better wages or be unionized as well. Now union representation is only 11%, but thankfully that figure seems to be rapidly changing.
Yhere are only two ways history has shown us this kind of disparity in wealth ends: peacefully, or as so many have ended in the past and currently, by violent revolution, where the wealthy are dispatched by more forceful means.
Unfortunately the violent approach rarely yields the best result for the people because the people who perpetuate the violent overthrow end up, quite frequently, as bad or worse than the regimes they replaced: Lenin in Russia, Castro in Cuba, Mao Tze Tung in China.
The current state of Russia is another stark example of what may well happen if we elect another would be autocrat in our own country. Make no mistake about it, if Trump is elected president again there is a very real possibility that it may be the end of our democratic republic. Just sayin’.