The Bigger Question: Poverty
In this quintessential election year the American public faces a most daunting reality. From this summers massive devastation of harvestable food crops, the ongoing financial crisis here and in Europe, with mounting tensions in Iran, and the ever persistent civil war in Syria are just part of the equations that dictate the enormity of upheaval that affects us all. Particularly here in the United States millions are just now realizing what our own elected officials especially the Republicans seem to be doing with the legislation that keeps spewing out of Washington. In so many instances what many perceive is that our society is literally being led like sheep to the slaughter while our own elected officials continue to quench their thirst off the sweat and tears of millions who languish day after day in despondent misery.
What took over 200 years to build now only took 40 years to destroy. In no other period in recent history has the American worker been so devalued, overworked, underpaid, and literally treated like slaves toiling away. The day to day drudgery, the thanklessness, the overbearence of those taskmasters continue to suppress a nations dwindling workforce. Sure, there are some companies whose benevolence is bestowed upon their employees but, still too many employers ignore and dispense with characteristic tendencies that make Ebenezer Scrooge pale by comparison.
As daunting the task before the American employer and employee today lies the fact that our own elected officials continue to impose an agenda that continues to undermine the majority of Americas the ability to aspire and eventually acquire a better quality of life. In essence be able to finally achieve the American Dream. This when the American Dream is just that today, a dream that remains as elusive as traveling to the next galaxy. The war on poverty and underemployment is just as ineffective as the so called war on drugs. In both cases the United States is in a loosing battle. In any case, the poverty rate continues to climb so now the real figure is that one quarter of our nations population is living at or below the poverty line. This is unconscionable that our government and business have continued to fail the American public.
In more instances all across the country the sociological changes in our society over the last 45 years has only exasperated the growing underemployment and poverty rate. Employers are so fixated on that bottom line like most of he Republicans today in their "wizardly" like acumen that cutting spending is the greatest measure in solving all of the countries economic woes. When in fact cutting spending and reducing taxes simultaneously are the worst measures and only produces more underemployment and poverty.
Then there are others who by the good fortune are able to find employment opportunities in North Dakota where like when the Alaskan pipe line was constructed this time another oil bonanza has exploded making robust claims of higher paying jobs. To be sure there are many openings that correspond with wages befitting workers but not to the longevity that one would expect or require to make a long lasting career that continues to pay. In short, this boom in North Dakota will only last as long as the oil that is pumped out. Not to mention that the wages incurred will only again equate to the cost of living. When in Alaska during the construction of the pipe line wages were high but so was everything else. Inflation took hold of every persons paycheck and the same thing is happening today in North Dakota.
During those forty five years so many changes have occurred that have impacted the employer as well as the employee. Some beneficial changes has resulted but, for the most part those changes have only benefited employers where the average John or Jane employee are worse off than they were 45 years ago. Basic sound business principals and practices that were taught in our educational systems are no longer emphasized. The moral decay in our society has played a very significant role in the economic misfortunes that cascaded down upon the public as a result of the financial crisis of 2008.
How much profit can a company or business make in the shortest amount of time has replaced the quality, durability and affordability of their goods and services that business produce. That quote from the movie Wall Street "Greed is good" continues to be the mission statement of most major corporations and businesses. When profit alone is the ultimate goal of any business not only are the products and services suffer but every employee suffers as well. Too often there is intimidation, callousness, and a very unforgiving atmosphere that has replaced what was once a cohesive and rewarding one for a job well done by most employers today. The compassion and a humility between employer and employee that was once the dominate factor that brought continuity and a productive working environment is lost in today's workplace. Now, no longer are employees valued for their experience, their creativity, their insight, and their thoughtfulness toward their jobs, their fellow employees and their employer. That old adage of" Take care of your employee and they will in turn take care of the employer by ensuring reliable, quality, durable and affordable goods and services." has been replaced by arrogant employers, a self serving ideology, and a complete lack of concern for the quality of products that are produced.
Again, there are some companies where management does bestow a certain amount of compassion toward the rank and file employee but, there still remains so many employers today who continue to suppress and deny their employees that ability to gain financial and economic equality in regards to the cost of living today. In Japan and now in China management have realized the value of the employee in relation to that all important bottom line. Here in the United States we have seen it time and time again where major corporations reward their CEO's with outrageous bonus, salaries with huge stock options along with other perks only to have that bottom line continue to fall. When recently a company CEO in China was rewarded a $3 million bonus only to disperse that bonus among his employees where each employee received a huge reward equivalent to over a months salary made all the difference in the moral of those employees and when moral is improved the whole business improves, economic expansion follows and the economy grows. A win win in economic growth.
Until Corporate America shows to a greater degree that their management values individual employees input, expertise, experience, and overall contribution the economy will still be stuck in reverse. An example of how all this got started was back in the 1950's through the 60's when management especially at GM wet out of their way to hire more engineers and encouraged the workers to develop new and better ways of producing better made cars. The perception was to produce higher quality while maintaining affordability. What happened in the mid 1970's at GM was very instrumental in reversing the quality aspect when engineers were replaced with number crunching MBA's where the bottom line was all that mattered. The consequences were astounding in that the American made autos were surpassed by the Japanese and other foreign manufactures. They, the Japanese, still realized that the employee was the interical ingredient in the success of a product, the company, and the whole economy. Incidentally, form that point on American manufacturing began it long slide down into the abyss that continues to spell economic failings right here in the US. So that today most major corporations rely on figures, that bottom line, to dictate the policies of corporate America. It didn't help either when NAFTA and subsequent trade agreements that were signed virtually wiped out most of the middle class wage producing jobs and created the vast void that is so vital for Americas economic stability, let alone growth.
To put all this in perspective we have to trace the beginnings of what it means to have a middle class that is the predominant class distinction in any society. Ever since the dawn of civilization societies have always evolved into class distinctions. From ancient times through the 21st century there has always been the the poor, the impoverished and the destitute. In America today the poor and the destitute are the United States fastest growing segment of the population. Alarming! It has always been that generations of poor spawned more generations of poor leaving little chance that those individuals who were born poor could escape that class distinction and rise above to become part of the wealthiest few. It has always been that the largest percentage of a population were ruled, controlled, and served the smallest percentage of a population namely the wealthiest. Looks like that is pretty close the reality that millions of Americans are experiencing today.
The prime factor in the evolution of the middle class was due to the rapid growth of the industrialization of American Industries that began in the late 19th century. It was Henry Ford who first realized that the more people who could by his automobiles the more profit he would make. This was the first step in creating a middle class society. Following World War II the United States from 1948 -1975 experienced the greatest percentage of the American population that earned middle class wages. At the height of our economic boom in the late 1950's and 1960's the ratio of the middle class was equivalent to 70% of our total population. In no other period in our history has the largest portion of wealth been so evenly distributed.
The Williams Theory Of Economic Evolution actually began during the period of economic renaissance of the mid 20th century. So what is this theory that is so essential for any society to flourish and prosper? Economic evolution occurs when the largest percentage of a population has the greatest percentage of wealth along with that same percentage of the populace having the ability and capability to actually earn and attain wages that is used to spend, pay down debt, and to save at least 10% annually. When we mean to spend: this is to increase the buying power of an individual and a society to stimulate more business growth. When we mean to pay down debt: we mean the ability to pay off mortgages, credit cards, and other assorted secured and unsecured debt, When we mean to save 10% annually: this is meant to deposit at least 10% of earnings into saving accounts, IRA accounts, and all other avenues of investment for future deposable income for when an emergency occurs or for retirement. In other words when more people have more disposable income to spend, pay down debt and save, this is the greatest economic stimulus any society can have.
What happened to the American Auto Industry in the 1970's was the initial start of Americas declining middle class. This was due in part by the United Auto Workers Union, the first real energy crisis, the Trade Act of 1974, and the continuing influence of the GATT Treaty. These all contributed to the fact that the American Automobile begin to loose the quality, the reliability, and the affordability that once made the Auto Industry in the United States the prominent Global producer of cars. Even today the American Automobile is having a very difficult time competing with the foreign imports that have been continually dominating the Auto Industry ever since the 1970's.
What started in the 1970's was a slow systematic decline of our manufacturing base economy and middle class wage earners. Up until 1993 they were being almost equally replaced by service related industries where wages were far below what the middle class manufacturing base economy produced. This steady decline accelerated at "light speed' in 1994 when the North Atlantic Free Trade Organization was signed by then President Clinton. From 1993 - 2009 the United States has lost over 5 million manufacturing jobs along with millions more that supported our once strong manufacturing base. Also contributing to the gowning number of individuals who have lost their incomes was the recent and now ongoing mortgage and financial crisis. The eradication of all the middle class wage opportunities has now become almost complete. So now the United States is faced with an unemployment ratio almost equal that of the period of the 1930's, the height of the Great Depression.
Governmental policies of the past 30 years has only exasperated the continuing decline of our middle class to now this essential part of society is all but extinct. An extinction almost complete leaving the majority United States population at the mercy of the fewest percentage, the wealthiest. Without a predominate middle class in any society that society will continue to languish in an vicious cycle of diminished opportunities where the majority of the population will be at the mercy of the wealthiest few. An income disparity so acute that any society that is so economically imbalanced the more civil unrest, more instability, and more distention will only get worse. This eventually leaves a nations national security in grave jeopardy. A perpetual cycle of diminished opportunities will not only continue but escalate leaving more individuals so impoverished that any hope of salvation to become more stable and equal in all opportunities will be all but impossible.
The ability of nations to attain the economic conditions that actually produce the largest percentage of the population earning middle class wages is paramount for any nation to have the ability to sustain long term growth, stability and their national security. Only when the United States realizes that our trade policies, the continuing fraudulent business practices, the corruption in our electoral process and our moral decay has all contributed to the elimination of Americas middle class will the United States begin to rebuild the most important class distinction in our society. The economic opportunities that produce middle class wages have to be the priority of every elected official and every business leader. Using lessons that history teaches us, the technological advances of today, a renewed resolve by all and the implementation of National Economic Reform the United States will reestablish the middle class as the majority of the population. With a predominate middle class, the majority of the population, will in fact assure the long term economic balance that is so necessary for having a sound and thriving economy.