America’s middle class bonanza is gone. For the last 60 years we middle classers have had a ride like no other, leading the world in salaries, benefits and prosperity. Our standard of living with all its amenities made us the envy of the world. We have been a consumer culture forever “needing” something more to buy and with money to buy it. Responding to all this money burning in our pockets, manufacturers and producers designed a planned obsolescence, ever bombarding us with the “all new and improved.”
America has changed. The world has changed — never to be as we were. World economy, internationalism and globalization are here! The Earth has shrunk with commerce and people traversing the globe.
Our comfortable isolated American economy is no more. The shamefully low salaries of foreign labor forces American manufacturers to either go out of business or outsource (moving their businesses to other countries for cheap labor in order to compete in a world market).
Our present U.S. administration (as sincere as their efforts might have been), infused billions of borrowed dollars into our failing economy and gave a passing relief; yet gave further and grave damage to our national economy (an indebtedness that will still be a burden to our grandchildren).
A further complexity of our American financial crises is the impact of the New Deal (1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt) which resolved that Americans’ economic and social problems are the government’s responsibility (to provide benefits for the handicapped, unwed mothers, the poor, the unemployed, the elderly etc.). These wonderful benefits are financed by withholding from the wages of the employed. What happens when unemployment happens is what is happening — a persistent recession. Unemployment and benefit checks abound with employment checks not abounding.
A sub-culture of permanent poverty has been established in America by our extensive welfare programs, expanded with liberal guidelines in the 1960s. Any citizen experiencing difficulty is on the back of the government (those who are working), creating a population of Americans who avoid work to maintain themselves in difficulty, eligible for on-going government free assistance.
What is the solution? We know the 60 year old New Deal has served American well, but seems to have run its course. It now is severely abused and is a continual overwhelming detriment to America’s economy. We all need security and have the obligation of supporting ourselves. “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your bread.” [Gen 3:19]. “If you do not work you will not eat,” [2Th.3:10]. Social Security for endless centuries was given to those who cannot work by family members coming to their rescue. During the last 60 years we have traded family relationships for wages, only to find wages are not always reliable. We now have an America with a growing lower class (30 percent) who are dysfunctional, further crippling all of America.
During the last century the developing countries of the world, including the U.S., have made a radical transition from a rural-agricultural economy to an urban-industrial economy. This transition has removed their populations (including us) from the timeless security of the soil.
Where do we go from here? Our jobs are gone! Our family farms are gone! Is our country going?
“Do not withhold your mercy from us, O Lord; may your love and your truth always protect us… For troubles without number surround us.”
[Psalms 40:11, 12]
May we stand stalwart as we proclaim, “In God we Trust.”
The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of psychology. Contact him at email@example.com