Sunday, April 10, 2011

We suffer from falling dreams.

I believe that the "American Dream" pursued by millions of Americans over several generations, has always included certain ingredients that were understood as particulates of this living dream:
1. decent working conditions
2. good wages
3. better and better opportunities for each generation, including college for the kids.
4. a chance to own one's home
5. health care and a safety net
6. lots of leisure time
7. assured pensions and social security

Now I have that dream, it's in my possession. I live better than my parents, who lived better than their parents, and so on. I have some level of health care so that if I face a health crisis I won't have to bankrupt the family. My children went to universities and got good jobs.

I own the home I live in.

I have a pension. Ah, now there's the rub. While millions of Americans stood silently by, their corporations and companies (with the complicity of their government and the complicity of the wealthy class of people who control our economy) stole their pensions. Sometimes, they didn't take it all, they just swiped whatever they could reasonably get away with.

But, I still have a pension. This is because I was a teacher. And this galls people. It galls the next generation which will have to provide for its own pensions because this society has tossed out the American Dream. Even one of my children speaks bitterly of my pension.

My pension also galls a lot of those folks who lost their own pensions --- that is, who watched while these were stolen from them. It also galls the government of this state which made a deal with me to provide this pension, and which now cannot believe they are obligated by it. That agreement was no secret. It was nothing done by surprise or fiat, nothing accomplished in the dark of night. It was not a crooked deal. It was a system established long before there was any teachers' union or any teachers' contract. Teachers would get pensions that they paid into during their working years. Yes, they paid into them, and they still do.

It galls the Republicans. Those Republicans have bankrupted the federal and state governments, and now they say, "We're broke!" They took the treasury of the United States and gave it to the wealthy. This was not done ignorantly or by mistake. It was deliberate. Now suddenly, society cannot afford to pay my pension. Now suddenly, we must "share the burden!" Or as one of my closest friends told me, "It's the teachers' turn to take the hit."

Don't you know that it isn't the teachers? It's also all the government workers. It's also the police. It's also the fire fighters and the park workers and lots of other folks who belong to one of the last unions willing to fight. I guess what people believe is that if one group (say, industrial workers) gets robbed, then everyone else should get robbed as well. Otherwise, we're not "sharing the burden". And meanwhile, those who were handed billions are asked to give up nothing. In our state, Michigan, the governor proposes that the wealthy be given more, out of the pensions of government workers to "business" which might produce us more jobs.

So, in this society, the wealth trickles UPWARDS. From the lower incomes to the higher ones. From those with little up to those with a lot. This is the morality of the current age. It is a morality without goodness or fairness. It is the morality of modern unbridled capitalism which expects all of society to pay its way.

This is a morality built on a set of deceptions which some people can pay to spread, and the rest of us cannot afford to fight.


Alice said...

Wondefully said. It's always amazing when many people would rather pull others down and wallow in the gutter togetther instead of asking that ALL share fairly in costs.

Dashmann said...

Perfectly said ----we are the first generation in a long time that has not left things better for our children ----

Sparty said...

Was it JFK who argued that a "rising tide lifts all boats?" Such an economic policy always made sense to me.

Your definition of the American Dream certainly describes the New Deal/Post WWII version of the dream, though home ownership, assured pensions and a social security safety net would not have been thought attainable by most Americans earlier than that.

I would add another ingredient to the Dream, one that has been constant throughout our history, and one that is the source of many of our problems: the opportunity to get rich.

Irene said...

Well said. I understand your position on your pension. I pay a lot of money each year into my pension. I could have been earning a lot more with that money over the past 10-15 years, but I paid into the plan because it was a safe and secure investment. I feel for the people who thought they had a safe and secure investment as well, only to find out it had been stolen. Now, instead of directing their anger at the people responsible for stealing their money, they insist that you should have yours stolen too, by the same rotten mob? How misguided can people be? As far as children speaking bitterly of your pension, if it wasn't for your pension, you would have to move in and be supported by them, just like the good old days!

Irene said...

Has anyone read the book Griftopia? It was a good read, but left me angry, incredulous, and pretty much in despair because I can't see how things are going to change.

Bud said...

Irene: Have not read it. Could I stand it? --- I mean the tension and anger?

Alice said...

I'll read it and reccommend that everyone read FREE LUNCH by David Cay Johnson.

Bud said...

I've been having a dialogue with Sparty and have to say this. I don't believe the American people understood that by electing so many Republicans last time they were opting for the destruction of Medicare, Medicaid, the pension system, the Social Security System, etc. How many of them have now woken up and made this discovery?

Irene said...

Bud - well, it's not a happy ending. However, I found it a good read because the story simply isn't being told in the mainstream media. The frustrating thing is that the robbery continues, just like you said. The wealthy have sucked up all the private wealth they possibly could, and now they are going after the public wealth - assets, pensions of public employees, etc. I told Tony about some of the passages, he won't read it, but he reckons some bankers (like the head of Goldman-Sachs) should be fearing for their lives. You might feel like breaking out the guillotine!