Security: a Tipping Point in U.S. History

At no time in the history of the U.S., with the exception of the Great Depression, has our nation been more primed for radical change from the status quo to something better.

Bernie Sanders may never be empowered to bring it, and Hillary Clinton certainly will not, but never has change been more necessary. A scent of it is lingering in the wind.

I recall growing up fatherless in Oregon in the fifties. My mother said repeatedly, unapologetically, “Franklin Roosevelt saved us.”

My unskilled mother, born in 1908 and educated through the 5th grade, had no way to make money after my father’s sudden death in an accident, except by laboring, like so many others, in the fields of the rich agricultural area where we lived.

We lived like a family of migrant worker in our own culture before I knew what the words meant, and long before I knew anything at all about the life-shaping dynamic of familial economics.

I was a baby when Social Security saved me and my siblings from starvation and kept a roof over our heads. Believe me, we did not live in a welfare castle or contrive to hoodwink the system. Or become social pariahs or fake out the rich, or overturn the government. Or attack the Rockefellers or the big banks. Or make a nuisance of ourselves or deny our Americanism.

What FDR did of course was introduce a form of socialism to the body politic, giving our nation Social Security and other elements of the Second New Deal (1935), including a powerful mandate to put artists and writers to work.

His administration worked against all odds. He was successful because the power elite feared a massive revolt was near and that the only way to save capitalism was to acquiesce to a new social reality that said Americans needed security—or else.

Some very ugly people are trying to change that and roll back history. Such is priority number one of today’s Republicanism. Indeed, neoliberalism’s corrupt global schemes against struggling Americans do not absolve even FDR’s old friends, the Democrats.

Back then…

You didn’t have to be rich like the Roosevelts. You paid into the program, which was designed to flourish with nationalistic investments. The theory: When you could no longer work, your money, or a part of it, would come back to aid you.

Time and again the U.S. squandered that investment in war and giveaways to the moneyed, the banks, the plutocrats, and the oligarchs, thus driving this country into massive debt.

The so-called “trickle-down” economics made ordinary by Ronald Reagan and dogmatically followed by his present-day adherents were inverted over time, i.e., turned upside down.

The economy trickled up before becoming a full stream of money stolen and pocketed by insiders, elites, and crooks.

I am tired of hearing today’s youth, college students and other “dreamers” disparaged because they’re prone to look outside the box of the status quo and the present reality.

Many of them are Bernie’s kids. Good for them.

“They’re kids, they’re not realistic,” the critics harangue. They don’t know realpolitik, in other words. Such is the present mantra of the elites in both American parties.

But I disagree with the elites. The kids today are more savvy and smarter than ever. They have a sense of U.S. history—if not a fully nuanced understanding of it.

The kids will, these naysayers argue, eventually learn to fit in. They will, like the children of the sixties, be bought off. Their youthful idealism and anger will diminish.

In the future they’ll embrace capitalism and learn to live with it.

A certain number of them will, of course, if and when they find decent jobs. This always happens. But the numbers game is changing as the concentration of wealth becomes more imbalanced among the haves and have-nots.

I think we’ve reached the tipping point. The majority will not embrace the way things are for very much longer.

They may not be enough to get Bernie over the hump at this time, but a newer and better Bernie will come out of today’s movement.

This will happen for the first time in our history because nothing will be there for the majority, the young and educated.

Hordes of education-indebted young people know this. They intuitively and empirically understand that the jobs won’t be there when they’re ready, no matter their anger, frustration, or discontent—or sadly, their talent.

They are right. It is happening as you read this.

Terry Simons is the founder of Round Bend Press Books in Portland, Oregon.  This story is excerpted from his memoir of growing up in Oregon, A Marvelous Paranoia.

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