In 1963 I turned 21. I was living in Nashville and active in civil rights. Occasionally it was quite brutal, but never w/out a sense of our righteousness and eventual victory. I’m not sure I have that same sense today…
The average yearly income was $5,700. (That’s $44,000 in today’s money.) You could buy a new car for $3,000, and a new home for an average of $12,500. You could gas your car for $5 (27¢/gallon), and $20 would buy a family a week’s groceries.
The minimum wage was $1.25 ($9.65 today), and first-class postage or a Hershey bar for a nickel. One need not strain to see that when you factor the wage, price and inflationary elements, we have quite literally gone backwards in real wages and buying power.
The equity between the relative wealth of the ruling class and the rest of us was far more equal then than it is today. Whatever has been “lost” by the working class has been more than accumulated by the wealthy 1% … quite literally. And this is no accident of history.
The average ratio of income of CEO vs. worker in 1963 was about 20-to-1. Today it’s 354-to-1. In other words, CEO’s literally earn more today while standing at the urinal than workers make in a year. And they believe that’s still not enough…
Born in the summer of ’42, I grew up in the post-World War-II era. Millions returned home after the war to an economy converted to consumerism.
While the war years were a period of great sacrifice, the GI Bill and a variety of liberal (FDR/LBJ; Social Security, the War on Poverty, Medicare…) legislation aimed at a bottom-up approach helped guarantee jobs and significant assistance in a college education and the purchase of homes (including myself, after my military service). Today, that’s all being dismantled.
Union membership back in ‘63 was about 30% of the workforce, today it’s 11%. Scholars correctly assert that the rising income equality in the US is significantly attributable to the decline of the labor movement and union membership.
After the War and coming out of the Great Depression, a Jim Crow South (and North, for that matter), and a period of record growth for unionism, voter enfranchisement, more equality for women and greater equity between the classes, the nation entered the ‘60s w/the promise of a cultural and social revolution on the agenda.
But that’s the funny thing about democracy. The masses are free to organize themselves as they see fit and elect people they believe will represent them.
But the corporate and wealthy profiteers are free to buy those reps, have legislation enacted that serves precisely their interests, and abolish and deregulate controls, which are in direct contradiction to the interests of the masses.
Further, they are free to buy the media—today of which over 90% is owned and operated by six corporations.
If you’re a racist, a nativist, seeking the faux-lotto day-dream of ultra-wealth classism, a misogynist, an NRA militia type, a fundo-Christian, and/or a basic conservative bigot, you are probably a Republican … or worse.
While the majority of the masses are Democratic, the leadership of that Party is pro-capital; there is no major progressive alternative in America.
Since the post-Civil War period, the wealthy corporatist elite made a concerted drive to own and operate the Republican Party in toto. After Roosevelt (Teddy), they succeeded.
Even so, their numbers are not enough to win elections for them. But their political powers assert a vast variety of inter-connecting acts and controls that limit universal voter freedom, abetted by the sad fact that a significant number of the “masses” utterly fail to participate in their own electoral freedoms.
Many people have the peculiar belief that once they vote or enact a favorable piece of legislation, their role is accomplished. The parasitic predators know better, they never give up.
Since the early 1960s, conservative cadre have been extremely active. While many in the public pay attention to their top-end politics, these cadre have perfected a sleight-of-hand, bottom-up strategy to capture political power in America. Neo-liberal “opposition” is merely a weak-sister quasi-collaborator.
They now effectively control the governorships and/or legislatures of 33 states, the entire US Congress, and most judiciaries, including the US Supreme Court. In other words, factoring their “Southern Strategy” from the post LBJ period when the number of Confederate states was 11, today it’s a super-majority.
The military is a volunteer, proto-mercenary force primarily staffed by a low-wage, surplus-worker population w/corporatist contractors free to profiteer at will. The nation’s police have effectively been para-militarized and turned loose upon any and all resisting populations.
Those surplus workers who fail to survive tracking into a felony record reside in the largest prison gulag in the history of the planet … and are otherwise under the supervision of the criminal justice system. Those who do survive that process are welcome to advance into the police-state apparatus.
After the American “Reichstag Fire” opportunity (9/11) allowed/abetted by the Bush-Cheney Administration, the Patriot Act was enacted to secure a lawful apparatus to begin the process of creating a full-blown security-state.
Bush-Cheney created Homeland Security in order to establish centralized power over 187 federal agencies, both existing and new.
The TSA was created to control public travel in the US w/a force of more than 47,000 agents. ICE was created for internal border controls w/15,000 agents, and the Border Patrol itself has since been beefed up to 21,000 agents.This includes a virtual Constitution-free zone around all US borders, which includes all of Michigan and 2/3rds of the US population.
One can witness today a carte blanche free-fire, kill-zone effectively created in the US. Those lumpen workers who are otherwise conservative (not yet liberalized by social maturity), of psycho-sociopathic low intelligence (high-intelligence testers are not welcome), and being felony-free, are encouraged to apply for these positions.
But all is not lost (to the ruling interests) even if one does have a felony record. There are a growing variety of “SA/Brown-Shirt” opportunities in the corp/NRA-sponsored Tea Party, KKK, Replug thuggery and militias ready to perform the front-line, dirty work of stand-by auxiliary terrorists.
(Their “anti-gov’t” naiveté will be forgiven when they’ve completed their national Kristallnacht expectations and they’ll eventually be folded into the state security apparatus … or executed if they fail to comply.)
If you think this is all a bit extreme in commentary–that America is essentially a democracy and will prevail thru these fascist-corporatist nightmares—well, it’s all been done before.
I recall when I was the Managing Editor of the South End newspaper at WSU, Detroit (1968-69), and we published the authority/obedience experiments by Stanley Milgram, a Yale psychologist.
He was initially studying why subject populations, such as the Germans, would accept the rule of fascism. He found that the American population was even more susceptible to such controls. And here we are…
My own researches as a forensic psych doctoral student (PsyD) into socio-moral development, led me to conclude that a central ideological feature of the national American culture is individualism. This is an advantage in terms of seeking personal goals and wealth, but a disadvantage in developing social consciousness and responsibility. Good for the 1%, growing impoverishment for the rest of us.
More and more we are seeing the gross pathology of this national-cultural trait. While the idea of total individual freedom is quite intoxicating, beyond a certain point it’s also quite idiopathic (existing w/out redeeming social connection).
A brief read into the Piaget-Kohlberg theorem/analyses of socio-moral maturation, will demonstrate how people normally progress thru life from infantilism, focused on individual needs, wants and desires, into progressively more mature phases … or not.
Some, because of early gross authority, trauma and other causes, become arrested in their development and cease to progress into higher levels of socio-moral maturity.
Conservatives (by definition, those on the low-end scale of undevelopment) naturally seek “positive” answers for their condition. Ayn Rand’s “rational selfishness” is one such rationale. It gives these individuals the faux-belief in an Übermensch ideology; that they are, in fact, at the highest state, not the lowest, that one can achieve.
Those of us of a certain age who have experienced an America, a world, that all too briefly lived somewhat more than just the illusion of Camelot, look upon the world today as a very dangerous place.
If somehow masses of people don’t come to actively participate in constitutional democracy and successful resistance to corporate power, things are going to get a lot more brutal and savage.
In 1865, the Union defeated the armies of the slavers. The South was occupied and the Freedman’s Bureau guaranteed equal rights. Then, carpetbaggers moved in and plundered what survived the war. Within a dozen years, by 1877, the Republican Party sold it all out and the South won the political war. The Black Codes and Jim Crow descended to bring about a condition Worse Than Slavery; a condition we still fight today.
In the 1940s the Allies prevented fascist rule of the planet. The planet has now entered a stage where there are no “Allied Powers” to come to the rescue of a world gone mad. It’s literally up to We, the People…
Dr. Publico (Nick Medvecky, PsyD), January 2015…