Today marks the tenth anniversary of 9/11 – a day that will live in infamy. How have we done over the decade? Does our post-9/11 behavior honor the victims? I can’t help but visualize Osama bin Laden looking up from Hell celebrating the decline of the U.S. But there should be no self-satisfaction. The weakening of America is not the fruit of Osama’s labor; it’s the result of rightwing politics coupled with Democratic leadership’s cowardice. And such has been the condition throughout the post-period. The two parties are the evil twins “Meany” and “Weiny” – as former Congressman Alan Grayson correctly tags them. One places party over country while the other fearfully surrenders to every demand. Result? We’re all screwed. ONCE UPON A TIME… working folk had power in America and used it to better themselves and their country. The story actually begins before unions became influential. So, let’s back up a bit further.
ONCE UPON A TIME… there was a Great Depression caused by over-speculation and corruption on Wall Street. The Stock Market crashed in 1929. So, voters got together and threw the bums out in Washington that were in collusion with the bankers and greedy speculators that caused the mess in the first place. And they put a man in the White House by the name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (elected 1932, inaugurated 1933).
FDR was a wise and kind man who saw clearly what the root causes of Depression were: (1) Lack of government oversight; (2) Extreme disparity of income; and (3) unfair, unbalanced tax and labor policies favoring the rich. To jump-start the economy, he immediately started work programs such as WPA and CCC. He launched Social Security and the National Relations Labor Act (which helped workers). The whole package was called THE NEW DEAL, because it drastically changed the course of American history for the better.
Naturally, the opposition fought back hard. They hated FDR and all he stood for because Roosevelt gave the working people a chance. So, they took over Congress in 1937, focused on the national debt, forcing the country deeper into Depression by mandating the U.S. pay back its obligations at an accelerated pace that had accrued due to the economic collapse they’d caused.
As predicted, their austerity measures (cutting the budget, jobs programs, social safety-nets, etc.) caused another small depression right in the middle of the big one. So, it wasn’t until after World War II started in 1941 the country finally climbed out of Depression, because the government again spent lots of money to pay for necessities… like the biggest conflict in world history.
After the war, unions were powerful, working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent's income. Anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. Many jobs were union jobs, and this meant they had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for them if they were treated unfairly.
People now refer to this period as the “Good Ol’ Days,” and rightly so. But what many forget is this: Unions and unwavering Democratic leaders were what put the “Good” into the “Ol’.”
Once upon a time, working people understood their history. They remembered the 1930s what condition the country was in and who put them there and why. They recalled the New Deal and National Labor Relations Act – how these programs initiated in the 30s helped them off the streets and soup lines.
Now we live in a different century where a lot of younger workers forget or never knew. Side issues are now more important than labor – like “Obamacare” and “guns-God-gays.” Little do they realize – the “side issues” are designed by unscrupulous political operatives to derail their jobs, livelihoods, and futures. If workers can be distracted by tangents, then corporatists and the greedy elite will have succeeded in destroying labor, and by destroying labor, they will have succeeded in destroying America.
America is also negatively impacted by the current President who sees himself as an Abraham Lincoln instead of a Franklin Roosevelt. Times demand an FDR, but we’re saddled with Mr. Nice who bargains away bedrock benefits and rights for the unlikely chance at enemy acceptance. Opponents are respected more than supporters. Understandably, the base is discouraged to the point of handing the 2012 election to any contender, including a Perry, Palin or Bachmann. It’s a situation he alone has created and will lead to driving nails in the coffin – if not swiftly reversed.
I believe the state of health of domestic labor is the canary in the coal mine for all America. As our jobs evaporate and relocate elsewhere, everyone can clearly recognize decline in this country. Have you driven America’s streets lately and noticed the creeping blight? The nation’s appearance is disfigured when compared to yesteryears, and that’s only the surface symptom of a serious chronic infection: encroaching fascism.
Our only option is sticking together with unwavering determination to throw the bums out. Like a family in the midst of storm, we must hold on to one another to make it through to a brighter day. Then we can sing with Judy Garland the lyrics of Wizard of Oz (1939):
“Somewhere over the rainbow, Way up high, There's a land that I heard of Once in a lullaby. Somewhere over the rainbow, Skies are blue, And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
Once upon a time unions were strong and jobs plentiful. Those days will come again if we just hold on. There may not be cute birdies flying over colorful rainbows, but at least we’ll have real hope for tomorrow.