Thursday, March 8, 2012

We Don't Want To Hear It


I spend a lot of time wondering why Americans in general don't seem to notice or care about the ongoing decline in their wages and standards of living and indeed why, sometimes, those of us who point out the fact are accused of whining, or of not being patriotic or optimistic.

Americans above a certain age have had it drilled into them from birth that every generation of American can expect to enjoy a higher standard of living than their parents did. They are not prepared, psychologically, to accept the fact that what they think of as the American Dream has ended. They think the economy will improve and things will return to the way they were. Or just one more election and things will be right again. Whether they see the solution as more Democrats or more Republicans, they see a way out.

Also, Americans above a certain age are insulated from the worst effects of the decline. They already have theirs.

Of the few unions that still exist, many have accepted so called two tier wage level contracts, whereby their wages and benefits are protected but new hires come in at lower pay levels. They already have theirs.




Like their parents, sacrifice and struggle are not in the collective memory of younger Americans. They did not go through it and don't know the history of it. They know little or nothing of the sacrifice and struggle of the kind that built the American labor movement, or that proceeded unions when workers during the depression held sit down strikes in auto factories and unemployed Americans marched by the thousands, the struggle and sacrifice that resulted in Americans enjoying the highest standard of living in history, when even Southern employers had to pay decent wages to attract workers because Southerners by the tens of thousands were fleeing for high paying union jobs in the North.

They have no idea that, when they look at the militarized police who show up at Occupy Wall Street rallies with assault weapons, dressed like commandos,  there was a day when an American industrialist could call up a governor or even a president and have the national guard set upon striking workers. They don't know about the massacres of workers by national guard troops or private militia like the Pinkerton agency, like the one that took place just up the road from here, just across the state line in Ludlow, CO, when strike breakers set fire to a striker's camp and then shot men, women and children as they escaped their burning tents.

But younger Americans aren't being inundated with the amount of American exceptionalist propaganda their parents were. They can understand the difference between a CEO's wages and theirs. They are the ones who are finding out that the jobs they assured would be there, that they were educated for, no longer exist and aren't coming back.

They have to find their own solution to the problem of declining living standards for the 99 percent during a time of record profits for the 1 percent, because their parents are like those Republicans who want to do away with Social Security. They've got theirs, and can't understand why everybody else doesn't have theirs. It's just not part of their reality.



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