There are many flaws with the conservative political philosophy, and authors David Armitage and Jo Guldi shed light on one of the big ones in their book The History Manifesto. You’d think that history-informed planning and policy-making would be a major part of the conservative agenda, and at one time it may have been. But then Reagan happened, and the “greed is good” era, which paved the way for the Neocons to move in and undo Glass-Steagall. Anyway, The History Manifesto points out a major problem with losing focus on the importance of historical precedent in determining policy: when we stop thinking about the big picture in social philosophy, we fall prey to thinking in terms of the problems of the day, which are mostly concerned with economic upturns and downturns. And all that concentration on economics tends to make people’s ethics shift from social justice to money. Our government has now become money-oriented rather than people-oriented. And what are the consequences of this shift?
In the old days the purchasing power of money was much higher, and so it was less of a day-to-day concern, freeing people’s time up for other things. This is not to say that the era was some economic ideal; of course it wasn’t. But there was a time when a person working a single minimum wage job could support an entire modest-sized family on his or her income. That is no longer the case. There was also a time when corporations paid their fair share in taxes, but that too is no longer the case. Corporations in America have, on average, never been more profitable than they are today; and yet, their tax payments have sunk to pre-WWI (that’s World War One) rates. Corporate tax rates were at their highest during the 1950s and early 1960s, which also coincides with our greatest period of prosperity since the enactment of viable corporate taxation in 1909. You do the math.
These are just some of the manifestations of a political culture that has become obsessed with putting profits over people. The conservatives in power like to bitch about the lazy poor, citing too-high unemployment rates to argue that so-called “entitlement” programs have damaged the economy by allowing the poor to mooch off the government while the rich do all the work to keep everything afloat. But all it takes is a little context to understand why unemployment rates remain high: if employers aren’t willing to pay people living wages, why should they expect the poor to be champing at the bit to work for them? Personally, I think the poor should refuse en masse to work for piss-poor wages. They should grind the service and retail industries to a halt until they get a $15 or $20 minimum wage. But they’re afraid to do that. Fear is the oil the powerful use to grease the wheels of industry. They keep us divided and preoccupied with terrorism and other abstract horrors while they amass monstrous fortunes that will mostly rot in banks, barely a fraction of it ever used.
So, the burden to stimulate the economy is not on the rich, since they horde more wealth than they will ever spend, keeping it dormant rather than active. No, that burden lies with the lower classes, who have no choice but to spend whatever they make. By and large, it is the poor, therefore, who keep the economy rolling and buoyant. The rich and powerful disdain us, and yet they couldn’t have gotten where they are (nor could they stay there) without us. They have the nerve to call us leeches and freeloaders even while they torque the system to squeeze every last bit of dignity and self-sufficiency from us, and force us to keep carrying them on our backs.
The rich point out that in the global economy America is falling behind because other countries aren’t putting all those stifling regulations on businesses . . . like, you know, paying people decent wages, making sure they have a safe environment to work in, providing health care for them and all that jazz. So, yeah, our politicians and corporate leaders want to turn America into a Third World country so they can become mega-billionaires instead of just mega-millionaires. They gripe about us abusing the system when they themselves have arranged the system to serve their interests, not ours. Sorry, corporate America, but you are NOT oppressed. Try again. Take your focus off serving money and put it back onto serving the people, and maybe you’ll get back the respect you squandered years ago. Maybe.