Monday, March 21, 2011

Why People Are Angry # 1

Back in the day, people used to talk about "the revolution of rising expectations." The idea was, people all over the world no longer accepted their lives. They wanted something better. Like Oliver Twist, they wanted more.

In the US, men expected to work at a job that was relatively secure. Their pay would be adequate and would rise over time, due to merit raises or union contracts. There might well be a pension. They'd own a house and one or two cars, maybe a cabin up north and a boat. At least they'd be able to afford vacations. They would be able to put money away for retirement and to help their kids though college. Their children would have better lives.

Not everyone had this life. I'm describing union workers in the north, who were mostly white, and the white collar middle class.

This began to change during the Reagan years. The Republicans called this era "morning in America." I called it "the counter-revolution of falling expectations." Over the past 30 years we have watched the lives of the middle class and working class erode. Pay has not risen. Jobs are no longer secure. Colleges have become seriously expensive compared to the 1960s, when a New York kid could get a tuition-free undergrad education at CCNY, and when I was spending $150 a quarter to go to graduate school at the University of Minnesota. So helping the kids get ahead is harder, and their better lives are a lot less certain.

Everyone knows what a can of worms American health care has become.


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