Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A Broken Contract

Coming out of the Depression and following it a new social economic contract was established in this country. Although there are a great many factors, a couple feature prominently - the shared social and economic disaster of the Depression and the shared sacrifices of World War II. The case can certainly be made that some few greatly profited from both but that does not negate the nearly universal sharing. This resulted in a nation that not only deserved but also believed it deserved to share in the benefits of the economy and society in broad terms. This means more than just unionization and moderate compensation for upper management and some restrictions on the tools of wealth, it also led to the successes of the Civil Rights movement and what success feminism had.

The 1950s and '60s were the era of big things, and not just cars. Unions built power bases, government put together large programs, manufacturing output soared, and general participation in society and economy exploded. A social and economic contract of shared work and shared benefit became the norm. This scarcely means inequities didn't exist or weren't tolerated but they were greatly reduced from any previous periods. None of this was free of conflict and backlash and yet this is the reason those conflicts even existed.

By the 1970s the very successes of the 'new contract' began to create fractures. Union membership was falling, welfare resentment rose, racial resentment broadened, economic gains by labor began falling and a distance began to grow between labor and white collar in perception of 'place' in the economy and society. By the 1980s a theme grew that government (and by extension - unions) was a problem. Taxes became seen as an evil rather than a necessary sacrifice and as a tool of unfairness to success. The Reagan era began and with it the work of dismantling the contract. Greed was the new contract and those not winning were seen as 'at fault.'

This brings us to today. In this sad state of affairs the ending of DADT and a corporate welfare health care 'reform' are great achievements in a social contract while the drivers of deficits like taxation rates, militarism, and out-sourcing are ignored in favor of gutting what programs of social equity exist. The drivers of discussion are somehow fairness to the greatest beneficiaries of a broken contract and the disaster of supporting those left behind in this broken economy. The social contract has become 'greed is virtue' even in the smallest sense of demonizing public employees and shifting the burden of being old onto the old. The winners are somehow deserving and those who didn't deserve misery so that anything else is socialism.

When a social contract is broken there is fallout and it will involve more than just a broken economy. Misery does not necessarily breed good decisions.


SButcher said...

You sure hit the nail on the head! I have seen it all and now it is all diminished by pure greed. What ever happened to "do unto others as you would have them do to you" or Love one another?

Chuck Butcher said...

If it were just greed ... the problem is that it is stupid greed.