The Great U-Turn
Do you recall a time in America when the income of a single school teacher or baker or salesman or mechanic was enough to buy a home, have two cars, and raise a family?
I remember. My father (who just celebrated his 100th birthday) earned enough for the rest of us to live comfortably. We weren’t rich but never felt poor, and our standard of living rose steadily through the 1950s and 1960s.
That used to be the norm. For three decades after World War II, America created the largest middle class the world had ever seen. During those years the earnings of the typical American worker doubled, just as the size of the American economy doubled. (Over the last thirty years, by contrast, the size of the economy doubled again but the earnings of the typical American went nowhere.)
In that earlier period, 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.)
Then, CEO pay then averaged about 20 times the pay of their typical worker (now it’s over 200 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).
Then, 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.)
In those decades, tax revenues from the wealthy and the growing middle class were used to build the largest infrastructure project in our history, the Interstate Highway system. And to build the world’s largest and best system of free public education, and dramatically expand public higher education. (Since then, our infrastructure has been collapsing from deferred maintenance, our public schools have deteriorated, and higher education has become unaffordable to many.)
We didn’t stop there. We enacted the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act to extend prosperity and participation to African-Americans; Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to the poor and reduce poverty among America’s seniors; and the Environmental Protection Act to help save our planet.
And we made sure banking was boring.
It was a virtuous cycle. As the economy grew, we prospered together. And that broad-based prosperity enabled us to invest in our future, creating more and better jobs and a higher standard of living.
Then came the great U-turn, and for the last thirty years we’ve been heading in the opposite direction.
Some blame globalization and the loss of America’s manufacturing core. Others point to new technologies that replaced routine jobs with automated machinery, software, and robotics.
But if these were the culprits, they only raise a deeper question: Why didn’t we share the gains from globalization and technological advances more broadly? Why didn’t we invest them in superb schools, higher skills, a world-class infrastructure?
Others blame Ronald Reagan’s worship of the so-called “free market,” supply-side economics, and deregulation. But if these were responsible, why did we cling to these ideas for so long? Why are so many people still clinging to them?
Some others believe Americans became greedier and more selfish. But if that’s the explanation, why did our national character change so dramatically?
Perhaps the real problem is we forgot what we once achieved together.
The collective erasure of the memory of that prior system of broad-based prosperity is due partly to the failure of my generation to retain and pass on the values on which that system was based. It can also be understood as the greatest propaganda victory radical conservatism ever won.
We must restore our recollection. In seeking to repair what is broken, we don’t have to emulate another nation. We have only to emulate what we once had.
That we once achieved broad-based prosperity means we can achieve it again — not exactly the same way, of course, but in a new way fit for the twenty-first century and for future generations of Americans.
America’s great U-turn can be reversed. It is worth the fight.
I know I’ve told this story before, but my abusive ex refused to let me take birth control. I was on the pill until he found them in my purse.
I went to the Student Health Center—they were completely unhelpful, choosing to lecture me about the importance of safe sex (recommending condoms) instead of actually listening to my problem.
Then I went to Planned Parenthood. The Nurse Practitioner took one look at my fading bruises and stopped the exam. She called in the doctor. The doctor came in and simply asked me: “Are you ready to leave him?” When I denied that I was being abused, she didn’t argue with me. She just asked me what I needed. I said I need a birth control method that my boyfriend couldn’t detect. She recommended a few options and we decided on Depo.
When I told her that my boyfriend read my emails and listened to my phone messages and was known to follow me, she suggested to do the Depo injections at off hours when the clinic was normally closed. She made a note in my chart and instructed the front desk never to leave messages for me—instead, she programmed her personal cell phone number into my phone under the name “Nora”. She told me she would call me to schedule my appointments; she wouldn’t leave a message, but I should call her back when I was able to.
And that was it. No judgment. No lecture. She walked me to the door and told me to call her day or night if I needed anything. That she lived 5 blocks from campus and would come get me. That I wasn’t alone. That she just wanted me to be safe.
I never called her to come to my rescue. But I have no doubt that she would have come if I had called. She kept me on Depo for a year, giving me those monthly injections in secret, helping me prevent a desperately unwanted pregnancy.
I cannot thank Planned Parenthood enough for the work they do.—
At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Sansa is a young, lovelorn girl fawning over Prince Joffrey. She believes in the social contract. Moreover, she wants to be a princess. As the narrative progresses, she finds her dreams dashed by increasingly horrifying circumstance and becomes trapped in a system she must learn to manipulate quickly in order to survive.
However, despite Sansa starting from a place of such naiveté and immaturity giving her room to grow into one of the more interesting characters in the series, she more often is shit on, because teenage girls with teenage girl-emotions are for shitting on. God forbid young girl characters start from a place of immaturity (in this case, falling in love with the first guy she sees) and then growing from there. Oh, no, they must spring forth from the thigh of Zeus, fully formed Strong Independent Women, guns blazing and kung fu fighting!— Lindsay Ellis, “The problem with “The problem with False Feminism” – a Strongly Worded Rebuttal” (via returntothestars)