Robert Reich is the latest aging hippie to lament the monuments his generation destroyed.
Do you recall a time in America when the income of a single school teacher or baker or salesman or mechanic was enough to buy a home, have two cars, and raise a family?
The second car might not have been necessary, because the household in question likely had Dad off to work first thing in the morning, Mom at home minding the kids, and the kids could walk to a neighborhood school, and play tag or sandlot baseball or fly kites or roller skate with their neighbors until the streetlights came on.
We weren’t rich but never felt poor, and our standard of living rose steadily through the 1950s and 1960s.

That used to be the norm. For three decades after World War II, America created the largest middle class the world had ever seen. During those years the earnings of the typical American worker doubled, just as the size of the American economy doubled. (Over the last thirty years, by contrast, the size of the economy doubled again but the earnings of the typical American went nowhere.)
No mention of second-wave feminism, of leaning in, of the substantial increases in labor force participation by women, including married women who saw that time in America as institutionalized oppression.  Thus de facto segregation's bastard cousin, sexism.  Income = Wages + Interest + Rent + Profit.  Change the number of wage-earners and do the math.
In those decades, tax revenues from the wealthy and the growing middle class were used to build the largest infrastructure project in our history, the Interstate Highway system. And to build the world’s largest and best system of free public education, and dramatically expand public higher education. (Since then, our infrastructure has been collapsing from deferred maintenance, our public schools have deteriorated, and higher education has become unaffordable to many.)
Mr Reich has no sense of irony. Here are the paragraphs that follow.
We didn’t stop there. We enacted the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act to extend prosperity and participation to African-Americans; Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to the poor and reduce poverty among America’s seniors; and the Environmental Protection Act to help save our planet.

And we made sure banking was boring.

It was a virtuous cycle. As the economy grew, we prospered together. And that broad-based prosperity enabled us to invest in our future, creating more and better jobs and a higher standard of living.

Then came the great U-turn, and for the last thirty years we’ve been heading in the opposite direction.
That's the Canon as prophesied by Herbert Croly, legislated by Franklin Roosevelt, and perverted by Lyndon Johnson. And if you've just had some kind of mushroom, the role of the hippies in wrecking the virtuous cycle gets very small.
The collective erasure of the memory of that prior system of broad-based prosperity is due partly to the failure of my generation to retain and pass on the values on which that system was based. It can also be understood as the greatest propaganda victory radical conservatism ever won.

We must restore our recollection. In seeking to repair what is broken, we don’t have to emulate another nation. We have only to emulate what we once had.
"Radical conservatism" had little trouble facing down both the Evil Empire of Brezhnev and Andropov  and "got a problem, get a program" technocracy because the former was so laughably clumsy and the latter so demonstrably enabling failure and undermining the foundations of prosperity and strength.

Perhaps in his concluding "America’s great U-turn can be reversed. It is worth the fight" is an offer from Secretary Reich to work with traditional conservatives, and the remaining Scoop Jackson Democrats, in undoing the worst effects of Sixties do-your-own-thing libertinism, particularly on the most vulnerable members of the public.


David Foster said...

The Complaining Classes, of which Reich is a prominent member, also for decades took a negative and harmful attitude toward American manufacturing...yes, those "good manufacturing jobs" that they are now looking back on so nostalgically. See my post Faux Manufacturing Nostalgia:


Stephen Karlson said...

Other environmental gripers, yes, Reich less so. During the early 1980s he was big on industrial policy as a way of protecting those manufacturing jobs, many of which had been rendered unsustainable by a combination of complacency in the executive suite, rigid union rules, and the recovery from war of the defeated Powers.