Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Ahhh, The Once Upon a Time American Dream

In a little over seven minutes what once was and is no more is explained in a clear voice. If you're my age, 63, you grew up in and into at least a decade plus or minus of your working careers or work experiences and were for the most part respected for the contributions you made, not only by employers but the consumers worldwide. If older you had more time and helped create what was already started. If younger you had less time or yours came with the new economics of capitalism, ever changing credit and investment schemes to keep everyone thinking they were prospering as well, top down with something labeled 'trickle down' to supposedly enhance the real growth that once was but only destroyed the dreams of the masses for the benefits of the very few, the con of the greedy.

This is what the media journalist and especially the politicians, if not all at least most, should have been talking about as we watched the collapse coming but especially since!

With not millions and multi-millions at the top but billions and multi-billions in personal wealth and corporate wealth, spending millions and multi-millions on lobbying and political campaigns, where's the sharing of that down the chain of those that produce it?

AIR DATE: Oct. 1, 2012 - The Seismic Economic and Political Changes that Transformed the American Dream

For Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith, the American Dream depends upon the prosperity of middle class. Ray Suarez talks to Smith about his latest book, "Who Stole the American Dream?" for more on what needs to change to restore the American Dream, economically, politically and culturally.

In "Who Stole the American Dream?" veteran journalist Hedrick Smith takes us on a tour of the last four decades, of economic globalization, winners, and losers.


HEDRICK SMITH: Well, they were living the American dream. They had pretty steady jobs. They had rising pay.

They had benefits, health care; 85 percent of the people who worked for companies of over 100 employees had health care, had retirement payments, a monthly check until you died on top of your Social Security, could afford to buy a home, pay off that mortgage over 30 years, and hope that your kids would do better.

That's a big chunk for an awful lot of people.

It made America the envy of the world. It let Richard Nixon go to Moscow and tell Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, we have a classless society.


HEDRICK SMITH: Well, they were very strong back then.

As you know, Ray, the environmental movement was strong, put pressure on Washington.

The labor movement was strong, put pressure on General Motors and General Electric and U.S. Steel and so forth.

The civil rights movement put pressure on Washington to open up the American Dream to blacks and other minorities.

Part of what happened to them was, it was so successful. But part of what happened to them was, there was a power shift. There was a tremendous change of power in Washington. And that had a big effect on the ability of middle-class Americans to achieve the American dream.

And the other thing that happened is what I call wedge economics, the splitting of the American middle class off from the gains of the national economy, so that today you can see the economy improving bit by bit, but middle-class people aren't doing that much better.

People at the top are doing real well. Corporations are reporting profits, but the people in the middle aren't doing that well.

Back in the old days, back in the heyday of the middle class, everybody shared in that prosperity. Today, everybody doesn't share in that prosperity. And that's why so many people feel so much pain.


HEDRICK SMITH: You know, it's amazing.

Everyone talks about 401(k). Almost nobody knows why it's called the 401(k). It's because it's that far down in the tax code. It is buried deep in the tax code.

When it was passed, it was never intended to be a national retirement system. It was put in the tax code as a favor to Kodak and Xerox, who have headquarters up in Rochester, N.Y., by the Republican congressman Barber Conable, who came from that district.

They wanted a tax shelter to give extra money to their executives.

Fast forward. In the Reagan administration, somebody said, hey, let's give that to ordinary people.

Fast forward again. The mutual fund industry says, wow, we get ahold of all those billions of dollars of retirement savings, we can make a lot of money.

Power to the people. Do it yourself. It's been a disaster for most Americans. They don't save enough. When they change jobs, they take their money out. When times get rough, as they have been recently, neither the company nor the individual contributes, with the result that the average balance is about $18,000 in a 401(k).

And if you're just on the lip of retirement, it's maybe $85,000 for somebody who is in their 60s and who has been in the plan for 20 years.

That's nowhere near enough. People will say, if you have been making $50,000 a year, you need a half-a-million.

So, we have got half of the baby boomer generation headed for poverty essentially in retirement, living on essentially only their Social Security.


HEDRICK SMITH: Yes, that's a very good question. Let's just take the facts for a moment.

What happened was, the productivity of the American work force from World War II to the mid-'70s grew almost double, 97 percent. The wage and salaries of average Americans, not just assembly line workers, but plumbers, carpenters, small business people, and so forth, they rose 95 percent, so just about the same increase in wages and salaries as in productivity.

The wealth, the growth, the economy, the prosperity was shared. rest of transcript>>>

Wasn't perfect, nothing ever is and forces of greed and power are always around. But we had a highly experienced and innovative workforce able to train the young as they entered and they in turn developed further the innovations and new idea's, growing along with most everyone else and making many very wealthy including the investor class. All of that started being shipped off to those that once envied, lower wage with little in benefits, if any, labor countries. Supposedly to keep products cheaper as the blame for rising costs, here, was always tagged onto the labor as their wages stagnated or fell same with any benefit's. What it really did was create ever rapid growth in bottom line capitalism not to be shared but to be mostly hoarded and if invested it was only to increase the wealth of the few and not make companies and workers in prosper off the growing labor wants with fewer workers of the corporate mindset within the new capitalism.

Which brings us to our recent past and wants still from these capitalist, wanting to maintain the con they built, not for us but for themselves and the few they'll allow to enter the club.

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