We hear it all the time. The stock market is roaring. Millions of jobs have been created. The economy is in great shape. So why is the middle class disappearing?
Because the stock market has little or no effect on ordinary, everyday middle class Americans. Because those millions of jobs are low-paying service industry jobs like slinging burgers at McDonald’s or working in the stockroom at Walmart.
The middle class jobs that once paid the bills and allowed families to get along on one income are gone, either shipped overseas or automated. The truth is those jobs are never coming back. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to your face, and even though it’s a truth you may not want to confront, on some level, you know it for what it is.
Sure, there are tech industry jobs that pay well – very well – but so many of those positions go to immigrants. Due to our very expensive and very broken educational system, there just aren’t enough Americans who have the skills to fill the number of high paying tech jobs available.
Not everyone can be a tech guru. There are millions of Americans who don’t have the interest or the chops. But those millions of Americans are willing to work hard. They are the people who, back in the day, would have been working at our now vanished steel mills, the people who would have been on the assembly lines making refrigerators, stoves, clothing and the myriad of other things we use in our daily lives. Those products are now made in some far off part of the world where workers are paid pennies on the dollar. The truth is, if those things were made here in this country, they would not be affordable. Nobody wants to talk about that, but it’s the truth. Even at the lousy national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, we’d be priced out of an available work force where that amount represents an entire day’s wages. It’s one thing to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and maybe pay a buck more for your burger and fries. It’s another to have the price of an $1,800 refrigerator shoot up to $4,000, even without raising the minimum wage.
One the one hand, there is Donald Trump promising to bring back coal jobs, blaming the loss of them on – who else? – the Chinese. On the other hand, there is Hillary Clinton, who has backed up on her former stance of ending incentives to the coal industry while ramping up alternative energy jobs and providing transitional training to displaced workers. Now she’s trying to sell disgruntled, out-of-work coal miners on the idea that she is going to revive a dying industry via carbon sequestration, dredging up the myth of “clean coal,” even though previous attempts have failed due to the costs.
Both candidates completely ignore the facts: mining coal is not cost-effective, there is a diminishing demand for coal; it’s filthy and there is no viable sequestration that will change that. The presumptive Republican nominee has branded climate change a hoax, while the Democratic front runner puts forward the argument that fracking is a bridge to the future.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is one of the prime offenders when it comes to CO2 pollution; and, instead of addressing that very real problem by urging investment in good paying alternative energy jobs that can’t be shipped overseas, Clinton and Trump are in a contest of who has the worst idea.
We can have a thriving, vibrant economy where people earn good wages, but it means we need a shift in the way we do things. It means we have to wake up to the reality that we have to stop subsidizing large corporations that are raking in profits and paying little or no taxes. We have to stop waging endless war, because the end result is an endless war on the citizens of this country by sucking up resources that would better serve us if those funds were used for the education, health and welfare of our people.
There are plenty of jobs just waiting for the government to give the go-ahead. Pull the subsidies from fossil fuels and subsidize the wind, solar and geothermal industries. Stop building weapons systems our military doesn’t want or need, and put people to work building new roads, bridges, dams and electrical grids. Tear out our century old sewer systems, and replace them with new and modern systems that won’t poison our cities and our children. Eliminate the tax loopholes enjoyed by corporations and the very wealthy, and build new schools and staff them with well-paid teachers who are given the tools they need, rather than having to dig into their own pockets to buy those tools.
Take a look around the world and see what’s working for the countries that are ahead of us in healthcare and education and the overall well being of their citizens, and find a uniquely American way to emulate them. And by that, I don’t mean to find a uniquely capitalistic way. That’s how we got where we are.
I am not against capitalism. I see it as a great vehicle for stimulating growth and entrepreneurship. But unfettered capitalism is a cancer that has been devouring our society and decimating our middle class. Unfettered anything isn’t good for any society. There must always be checks and balances. Right now, capitalism in our society puts me in mind of one of my favorite Hunter Thompson quotes (pardon the paraphrase): “The (insert name) business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs.”
There is a candidate who the media shuns and whom we are told doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning this election. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate in the race who has consistently called for a paradigm shift and spelled out how we can accomplish it. He has never changed his stance on gay rights, healthcare, war, or the need for a progressive taxation system. He has made a career of standing up to the moneyed interests and has not enriched himself in the process. Bernie Sanders isn’t hiding millions of dollars in some off-shore haven and playing us all for suckers. He’s a career politician who is the antithesis of a career politician. Some find him refreshing, others find him annoying and yet others find him to be a serious threat that must be stopped.
As for me, he’s got my vote.
Win or lose, Bernie Sanders is not going away. He has awakened the progressives in this country and has tapped into a river of discontent regarding the direction this nation has taken. As long as he has breath, Bernie Sanders will stand and fight for the average American citizen, whether they like him or not. It’s what he does.
Just something to think about as we wrap up the primary season and head into the general election.