I grew up in a world that rewarded hard work with a middle class lifestyle. And when a hard worker became disabled or elderly or when a family lost their main source of income due to an untimely death, help was provided. This experience created a sense of trust that government policy and regulation would benefit all. It didn’t matter whether the Republicans or the Democrats were in control, it seemed that a compromise that benefited all could be found. Business leaders were statesmen that had a deep sense of stewardship for our country. They upheld their part of the unwritten social contract with American workers, the workers who gave their effort and precious time to the benefit of the company. I feel this sense of trust created voter apathy. Why vote when things are good?
The days of benevolent stewardship by business leaders, the wealthy and corporations is long gone. Their focus now is to lobby government for policies and regulation that favor their interests at the expense of working people including reducing or eliminating livable wages, healthcare and pensions. They collectively spend billions of dollars on lobbyist, lawyers and experts to steer governmental policies and regulations to satisfy their self-interest. Now instead of voter apathy, eligible voters have a sense of powerlessness. What good is their single vote against all that power and wealth?
GOOD NEWS! THERE IS POWER IN NUMBERS! And you are one of those numbers! One hundred million eligible voters did not vote in the last presidential election! Only 58% exercised their right to vote. Seventy-five percent of American families make less than $100,000 a year, while 47% make less than $50,000 a year and nearly a quarter earn less than $25,000 a year. The point is that hard-working Americans make up the vast majority of eligible voters making us the most powerful electoral force in the United States. Let’s Vote! Let’s elect public servants who represent our basic needs and support policy and regulations that provide fair and honest government. Get involved! Vote pro-labor!
According to Wikipedia.org, Confirmation Bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses.
Confirmation bias occurs when you see or hear something that you believe is already true, even though, it may not be at all true.
People who are struggling economically in our changing economy may blame illegal immigrants and minorities for their predicament, rather than automation, globalization, entry-level jobs that require a higher skill set and the dismantling of labor unions.
People who feel that taxes and healthcare costs are too high may also blame immigrants, minorities, welfare recipients and big government, rather than big tax cuts to the wealthy that don’t trickle down but are instead used for stock buybacks that only make the rich richer, big pharma that outlandishly overcharges for life saving drugs to only enrich themselves and the fact the government has been overtaken by the wealthy class who does not effectively represent the majority of Americans.
The struggling working class has come to believe that big government is the cause of their problems, when in fact deregulation has caused much of the unfairness that currently exists in our economy. Deregulated lending and mortgages resulted in countless foreclosures for hard-working families and the 2008 financial crisis (and remember it was hardworking Americans who bailed out the bankers who got rich causing the crisis and who went unpunished). The deregulation of the airlines resulted in the loss of thousands of good paying jobs that included healthcare and pensions. Deregulated campaign finance has allowed the ultra-wealthy to have unfair influence in our elections and in passing policies that favor the rich at the expense of the majority. These are just a few examples of the problems caused by deregulation.
We need a bigger, truly representative government that is fair for all Americans and that supports the common good. We need campaign finance reform and finance regulation. We all need to invest in infrastructure, education and healthcare. We need to stop the few that are robbing the country of its resources that should be used for the common good of our democracy. Blaming people who are in the same boat as us rather than the captain who is steering the boat and keeping all the spoils for himself.
Be aware of your confirmation bias and fact check what you see or hear even if it agrees with your pre-existing beliefs.
When most people hear the term social breakdown, they probably think about the poor, the homeless or a biker gang, but this is not the end of the story.
Emile Durkheim defines anomie (for me social breakdown) as a “…condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals resulting in the breakdown of social bonds between the individual and the community.” It arises from a “…mismatch between personal or group standards and the wider social standards, or lack of social ethics,” resulting in “…moral deregulation and an absence of legitimate aspirations.” It’s not just an “…absence of norms, because “…a society with too much rigidity and too little individual discretion can also produce anomie (quotes on ‘anomie’ from Wikipedia. org).” So, a healthy society seems to be a delicate balance between the individual (individuals of all classes) and the common good.
It may seem easy for some to identify the lack of social, moral and ethical standards to be present in other classes but not their own. But, it is important to look at our own morality and the legitimacy of our own aspirations. Greed and selfishness can be deeply hidden in self-achievement. Durkheim writes that “desire without limit can never be fulfilled, it only becomes more intense.” This results in grasping without concern for others. It results in subprime mortgages that cause hard-working people to lose their homes while bankers get richer and drug companies charging astronomical prices for a drug needed to save a child’s life just to increase their profits. It’s accepting tax breaks that take money from programs that promote the common good like healthcare, education and infrastructure.
Social breakdown is not just present in the lower classes, but in all classes. We need to work together and to realize what is truly important. We need to break out of our class bubbles and participate in the common good. Robert Reich states that without the common good we have no society. We are all responsible for the common good.
In Coming Apart (Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, New York 2012, 2013), Charles Murray suggests that a new lower class has developed over the last 50 years due to a decline in marriage, industriousness, honesty and religiosity, and an increase in isolates (those disconnected from community life). In several of my blogs, I have talked about fair wages for a fair days work and how wages have stagnated for the working class (real income for the bottom 80% rose by 41% while the top 20% rose by 88% between 1979 and 2013). I want to make sure that this hard-working class of people is not unfairly grouped with the new lower class discussed by Murray. Also, this situation is outside the influence of the dream hoarders from the upper middle class that I wrote about in “Fairness Forgotten?”
Single motherhood, unemployment and child poverty contribute to the problems faced by the new lower class. There are currently 10 million single mothers in the United States. There are 9 million unemployed adults of which 373 thousand are not looking for work. There are 13.2 million children living in poverty, that’s about 1 in 5 children. Just to be clear, there are economically successful single mothers, however, children raised by single parents are more likely to be poorer, experience behavior problems, not graduate high school nor attend college than their two-parent counterparts. If nothing is done this predicament will be self-perpetuating.
I think trying to convince adults that they should marry, be more honest, industrious and religious would fail because of ingrained beliefs and established habits and class norms. However, I believe that caring for all children through outstanding public educations and well-funded and staffed after school programs would help meet the unmet needs of these children. In addition, local churches and athletic associations and scouting groups could provide the community life that may be missing for some of these children. There have always been children who were raised in less than perfect homes, but, often, the community acted as an automatic safety net. Why can’t it again? Also, fathers need to know how crucial their involvement is in raising physically and emotionally healthy children.
Murray talks about a government provided basic income for all Americans ages 21 and older by cashing out all income transfer programs like social security and welfare. Murray is a self-professed Libertarian and I don’t know where this idea falls politically. But if it helps the children, I’m for it!