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John Eby: So this is what it was like living through the 1920s

Published 10:47pm Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The summer I went to college so I could graduate early I took a class on the 1920s.
I always imagined what it might be like to be alive then.
Didn’t expect my fantasy to be fulfilled, but you have to go back 82 years to 1929 for the inequality where the top 1 percent of households take such a lopsided amount.
Did you see where the President was railing against “a small group (who) had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor — other people’s lives.”
And by the President I mean Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
FDR’s New Deal followed by four years the 1929 Great Depression.
Republicans occupied the White House throughout the 1920s, with Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, while the Supreme Court sided with big business, striking down labor standards, minimum wages and other protections.
An economy this hollowed out by the chasm between the super rich and everyone else couldn’t prosper because who could afford to buy their products, except the markets are less frequently on these shores.
Maybe that’s why tycoons seem out of touch with our troubles.
Before we really started talking about globalization, businesses drained jobs to places like China and a new word, outsourced, entered the lexicon.
They live behind fortress walls in gated communities and shelter corporate income offshore from enormous profits generated outside America.
At the least, entrenched members of Congress ought to be required periodically to live in the America their myopic policies create.
Our missing middle class doesn’t even merit mention in the frequent Republican candidate debates, which breathless pundits cover like they matter for an election a year from now.
Sarah Palin! Donald Trump! Mitch Daniels! Jeb Bush! Michele Bachmann! Rick Perry! Mitt Romney! Chris Christie!
Try to keep up at home with the need for fresh meat to feed the relentless media maw. I
t must be about time to slip Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum into the pinata limelight.
Herman Cain, with his 9-9-9 tax plan which, Jon Huntsman, is right, sounds like a Godfather Pizza deal, but people are responding to trying to simplify the tax code. He said Oct. 5, “Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”
Some suspect his campaign is cover for a book tour.
Perry and Romney probably don’t want to be reminded of 2004 when Democrats Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt pounded the stuffing out of each other and the nomination went to John Kerry.
Since Jimmy Carter after Watergate, we mostly prefer people unqualified for the biggest job on Earth who posture as Washington outsiders.
George H.W. Bush was a notable exception and we made him pay for loose tax lips, although Bill Clinton couldn’t otherwise have produced balanced budgets.
President Barack Obama said in Florida Sept. 29, “This is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft, and we didn’t have that same competitive edge we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track.”
A pretty conservative utterance considering the cries of blasphemy it unleashed.
Yet we rank next to last in one measure of 44 countries in things like research and development. We’re ninth in college graduates and 51st in science and math education.
In 2002, just 6 percent of degrees were in engineering, compared to 20 percent for Japan and 16 percent for Germany.
As many Americans work in the prison business as in the auto industry.
A very telling statistic about our priorities is that the federal government spends $4 on each adult over 65 versus $1 on every child younger than 18.
We keep doling out tax cuts to people who don’t need them while slashing social programs, relying on social media and angry talk-show hosts for information, then wonder at our culture of incivility and rampant extremism.
The right has the Tea Party and the left has Occupy Wall Street, which turned a month old Oct. 17 in Zuccotti Park.
Fox ridicules them as incoherent, but to sum up, fairness.

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