Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August 5, 1981: The day the middle-class died

Michael Moore says from time-to-time people under 30 will come up to him and ask him about an America they have heard about but never experienced and whether he knows when that world ended and why.

They say they've heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent's income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how "lowly" your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated.

Moore says he tells them he knows the precise date when everything began to change.  It was August 5, 1981.  That was the day Ronald Reagan fired every member of PATCO, the air traffic controllers union.  Instead of standing by PATCO, the leaders of the AFL-CIO, the largest and most powerful union in the country, ordered its members back to work.  So, airline pilots and flight attendants got on the planes, truck drivers went back to making deliveries, baggage handlers went back to loading and unloading baggage, Americans who needed jobs applied for and took the jobs of the the fired PATCO workers even though they were poorly trained, and Americans went back to buying tickets and flying on aircraft, not worrying too much about whether it was safe to fly.

Reagan and the Republicans won that day and they kept on winning.  America's largest corporations learned that the President and his party was giving the green light to greed.  As Moore says, "they could get away with anything - and they did. They slashed taxes on the rich. They made it harder for you to start a union at your workplace. They eliminated safety regulations on the job. They ignored the monopoly laws and allowed thousands of companies to merge or be bought out and closed down. Corporations froze wages and threatened to move overseas if the workers didn't accept lower pay and less benefits. And when the workers agreed to work for less, they moved the jobs overseas anyway."

Middle-class Americans never opposed what the few were doing to the middle-class.   They never stood up and said NO.  In fact, they rewarded Reagan with a second term and Republicans with eight years of George W. Bush's disastrous economic and regulatory policies. 

No, our sons and daughters.  Unless you find someway to get rich fast, you will struggle to raise a family.  Your kids will have a hard time affording college.  You'll have a hard time finding a decent paying job and you will always be at risk of losing it no matter how hard you work and/or how bright you are.  You will work as many days per week and as many hours per day you are told to work and you will have no way to protest your working conditions or pay because you will not be able to join a union.  Forget a pension.  You won't have one.  You may not even have Social Security or access to affordable health insurance if Republicans get their way.  

That's the legacy we are leaving you because on August 5, 1981 when middle-class Americans should have stood up to Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party and said "No, you will not destroy the middle-class," we said and did nothing or we joined in to make it easy for them.  

Right now, there are hundreds of would-be Reagans in the Republican Party that want to do damage to the remaining middle-class on a scale Reagan could not have imagined.  Once again, we are letting them get their way.  There is a real danger that American voters will go to the polls in November of 2012 and turn over the government of the United States to the Republican Party.    

If we do that, if we let the Republicans take over, ten years from now, a new generation of young Americans will be asking us about a time when 90% of Americans didn't live in poverty while 9% were comfortably rich and 1% enjoyed the lifestyle of kings.  All we will be able to say is that we know the day when the middle-class was buried for good--election day 2012--and, that we are sorry.  By then, it will be too late.

It is NOT too late now.  If you want to save what is left of the middle-class and maybe even get back some of the HOPE we have lost, you need to stand up to the Republicans and say NO.  The Democratic Party and progressive/liberal organizations need your support.  

I encourage you to click on the link below and read Moore's post.  Then, scroll to the end.  He provides links to web sites where you can learn more about the problems of the middle class and organizations fighting for the middle-class that need your help.  Help them.

Read Moore's post here: http://www.readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/6919-the-day-the-middle-class-died

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