How did this come to pass?
2:35 PM, Sept. 12, 2011|
by Dr. Hag Hogstrom PhD, retired Professor, Syracuse University [used by permission of the author] From The Asheville Citizen Times.com
I am closing in on my 10th decade, and I cannot remember a period when the public life of our country was riven by such divergent and hostile perceptions of the nature of our problems. However did we come to this pass? And what led so many members of our working class to start voting like their local bankers?
During the decades following World War II, the working class and most of the members of our middle class still looked upon the government as a positive force in the life of the nation. But then, beginning with the disaster in Vietnam, a sense of disquiet began to take hold. And what most powerfully shook the nation was the loss of our heavy industry and the jobs that went with it when the rust blight spread across our heartland. For so many Americans, the loss of employment and with it the sense of purpose that had been provided by productive labor was a devastating defeat. And along with the personal loss there was a painful social loss. The union movement that had grown out of the world of work was eviscerated.
The alliance between labor and government that had developed in more prosperous times began to unravel when global competition led to the migration of industries overseas and politicians seemed helpless to stanch the loss. And, in a too- long-delayed reaction to injustices in the workplace, government policies were instituted to break down the barriers to employment by African-American workers, particularly in the craft unions. Not all union members were happy about this new kind of regulation.
Then, when the government finally confronted the damage being done to the environment by some industries and enacted regulations to control pollution, many employees of those industries saw in the enabling legislation a threat to their livelihood. What confirmed this conviction was the replacement of American jobs by industry in parts of the developing world where goverments were indifferent to environmental degradation. The connection between that and locked factory gates here at home seemed inescapable.
There has been no shortage of angry voices in the media to make the case to the unemployed that their own government had done this to them and that “regulation” is just another word for job destruction. The theme of betrayal of the working class by its former ally is the basic message of those opinionators who filled the airwaves with constant confirmation of the sense of victimization felt by the disempowered. We should count our blessings this stoked rage of the losers in this harsh economic game has not yet been shaped by opportunistic provocateurs into a destructive movement.