Americans have a set of values they hold sacred to being a citizen of this nation, so much so that it’s named after this country – the American Dream. But tradition shouldn’t cloud our thinking when something we hold dear isn’t working as it should. A prime example is capitalism.
The idea that a person can climb the economic latter based on hard work is a noble one. But increasingly, it seems more like a philosophical view taught in textbooks that has little basis in reality. There are tens of millions of hard-working Americans who not only not getting rich, they are barely able to support their families.
That has not always been the case. For decades, Teamsters and other union workers went to work, did their jobs well and came home to food on the table. But the anti-regulation push by lawmakers caused a decline in union membership. That, mixed with the shipping away of millions of good middle-class paying jobs due to broken trade promises have left many employees flailing.
Today’s free market may be a boon for the corporate class, but it’s a bear for many an honest worker just trying to keep a roof over their head. Even company executives who have tried to do the right thing by sharing some of their largess with employees have paid the price. It seems more and more no amount of profits is enough for big business.
Corporations are increasingly looking to friendly lawmakers on the Hill who are only too happy to reduce the “burden” on billionaires while rank-and-file workers suffer. Despite being a nation that gave birth to the epic failed energy conglomerate Enron Corp. and mega-banks that drove the U.S. into a recession and threaten to do so again, for too many in Congress, there is no limit to obstacles they will hurdle for their corporate cronies.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said to the average worker. That’s why we have tobacco field workers living in squalor and getting sick and injured while working for the minimum wage in North Carolina. That’s why we have fast-food workers getting clocked in as two different employees so their bosses won’t have to pay them overtime. And it is also why you have thousands of low-wage workers taking to the streets over and over again to say enough.
It is time for political grandstanding to take a back seat to political reality. Capitalism is broken. It can be fixed, but it can’t continue as a runaway train that barrels down on everyone with no concern for their outcome. Regulators and lawmakers exist to protect the public when evidence shows there is wrongdoing.
The warning lights are flashing. Don’t ignore them any longer.