The following opinion article was submitted by Kenneth Wells, Chair of Stephen County Democratic Party. The views expressed here do not necessarily equal endorsement of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.
Can Our “Middle Class” Be Revived?
With the loss of the middle-class in the socio-economics of the United States a looming certainty, we can only ask ourselves, “What must happen to rejuvenate a meaningful atmosphere for all to live in?”
The “Middle Class” was (1) the outcome of a transition from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial-manufacturing economy, (2) World War II and (3) the rise of Organized Labor during the next 3 decades.
The transition from agriculture to manufacturing caused a drastic shift in the way people lived. People moved from rural areas, where their closest neighbor might be miles away, to city living – stacked on top of each other – a condition that is still prevalent today.
Modern farming equipment, faster methods of transportation and the promise of a more steady income was the downfall of the “family farm.”
World War II not only pulled the United States out of a “Wall Street” and “top heavy wealth” inequality. It also brought the U.S.A. out of the Great Depression. While large segments of the male populations in industrialized worlds were involved in military operations, women were called upon to fill industrial-production vacancies. When the war ended and service men came home, they found their prior production jobs filled by females. That brought about another socio-economic shift – madam now working to add to the family’s income.
Many of those who were drafted or enlisted into the different branches of the military found their educations interrupted which produced a “hole” in their economic advancement. The answer to that problem was congressional legislation – the “G.I. Bill”- which provided funds to returning servicemen/women with which to complete their educations. Tied to the “G.I. Bill” was another “Middle-Class” improvement – U. S. Government-backed financing with which the G.I. could purchase a home.
While all of this was being accomplished, President Harry S. Truman reorganized the U. S. War Department into what is now known as the Department of Defense. This action removed the Air Corps from the Army and created a stand-alone U. S. Air Force. Going one-step farther, he de-segregated ALL of the Armed Services of the United States.
Low wages, unsafe working conditions, child labor and excessive working hours with inadequate compensation were the initial socio-economic problems Organized Labor focused on. Improving those conditions brought about the rise of a class of people who could expect that their families would have a home of their own, enough to eat, a proper education for their children and savings for retirement.
To once again build that same “Middle Class” will require strong socio-economic action by federal and state governments. To overcome today’s inequalities, we will need politicians who are not empowered by financial organizations and/or large corporations donating to their “war chests.” Welfare to corporations which use our highways, railroads and natural resources significantly while paying insignificantly in use taxes, and tax giveaways for companies to relocate or expand, must cease. Those same politicians should introduce a progressive income tax system which disallows entities at the top of the income level to pay a smaller percentage of their income in year-end taxes than the lower income tiers. Sadly, today, there is little hope for this.
This is my last Democratic Opinion Article for the Duncan Banner. I want to thank the Editor(s) for allowing me to share my thoughts and opinions with you for the past three years and to my readers for your support! In the future, with the good graces of the Duncan Banner staff, the weekly Democratic Opinion Article will be furnished by Gary Reddin, Secretary of the Stephens County Democratic Party. Gary is well aware of the trials and concerns facing Oklahomans – from socio-economic inequalities to an inadequate criminal justice system to women‘s rights and beyond.
In preparing my weekly article, I must pay homage to those who assisted me in my endeavors. First, to Jack Guerkink – who is no longer with us – for his expertise and understanding of our “capitalist” system and its misuse by the powerful, and to my wife Koleta, who brought me back onto my intended path when I wandered in my writing!
Kenneth Wells 580-444-2563
While I am no longer a steady contributor to the Duncan Banner I will continue to record my opinions in my Blog, on40acres.wordpress.com and the Facebook page listed above. These posts will also be sent to news agencies as in the past.