I shocked a few friends when I announced that I’d sold my home and would be moving into a retirement center. They weren’t surprised because they thought I was too young. My grey hair and sagging jowls say otherwise. So why the eyebrows lifted to form a question? I suspect they wondered how I could afford retirement living. One of them shrugged, at least, and admitted he doubted he’d ever have enough money to retire.
He might be right. A decent pension is rare these days and about to become rarer. Social Security looks none too sure either and jobs that pay well enough to allow savings for the future are scarcer still. Except for the 1%ers, the golden years are looking none too golden.
Paul Starr in “The Growth Paradox” (The New Republic. July 14, 2014, pgs. 37-41) writes about the dramatic changes coming to the work place in the near future. The digital age will eliminate many jobs without creating new ones, making unemployment a permanent part of the economic landscape. He says we need a new paradigm to distribute the nation’s wealth. Unfortunately, few in Congress are looking at the problem. Worse, no one is proposing stopgap measures, like imposing a more progress tax system. Few on either side of the political aisle want to talk about taxes in an election year. Unfortunately, we have an election every 2 and 4 years, so it’s never a good time to talk taxes.
Another reason Congress has failed to lead is its disconnect with Main Street. Money has captured our election process, so few politicians have time to care about middle America. In fact, many of them have parlayed their powerful connections to acquire capital for themselves. The average citizen understands this fact which is why Hillary Clinton drew criticism when she described herself as “dirt poor.”
If the ship of state is to correct its course away from oligarchy, average Americans must begin a dialogue with the wealthy. The task won’t be easy. Labor unions have been all but silenced and few progressives exist to challenge the status quo — people like Upton Sinclair, Margaret Sanger, A. Phillip Randolph, Saul Alinski, Rachel Carson, C. Wright Mills, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Cesar Chavez, Thurgood Marshall, Pete Seeger, Betty Friedan, Martin Luther King…
Nonetheless, Starr is right. Rich and poor and middle class, we must find the path that leads not only to economic growth but to greater wealth equality. (Ibid pg. 41} Let’s start with corporations. If they really are people, then let them conduct their businesses as if they were Americans who cared about their country.