Monday, November 5, 2012

Rebuilding The Gilded Age

A conversation with my Mom's oldest brother this weekend informed me that I am no longer the lone Democrat in a family of Republicans. Nearly 70 years ago when he registered to vote for the first time, he did so as a Republican. This year he changed his affiliation to the Democratic Party. This information that he shared with me didn't occur during a political conversation. It happened as we were discussing a History Channel program I spent time watching this past week.

"The Men Who Built America", Vanderbilt, Scott, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Frick, Morgan, Ford and Edison. All captains behind the growth of railroads, coal, oil, steel, automobiles, banking and electricity. All grew supremely wealthy at a time when American Workers could be bought for an average of $1.20 a week. If profits were down for the company owners, workers were fired, those duties were added to the remaining worker's day and pay would be cut in half.

There were no regulations, few safety measures and if you were injured beyond the point of ever being able to work again, well, you were on your own. You were fortunate if you had sons of 9 or 10 who could find a 60 hour a week job to support your family. Doubly fortunate if your sons and daughters were old enough to have families of their own and an adult breadwinner who could take on the task of supporting you. This wasn't as much of a burden as it sounds today because life expectancy was considerably less than it is now.

While you were struggling to make ends meet, your employer was attending balls, building block long residences to house their families and their art collections. They were taking cruises, vacationing in the Adirondacks in homes that although used for a few short months a year, were nearly as opulent as their New York residences. For some, philanthropy became an interest, but not until decisions they made caused death and destruction. However many libraries, schools and museums they built, they seemed to ignore the workers upon whose backs these grand edifices were erected.

Never did it occur to them to increase wages, correct safety issues or offer pensions so the elderly or infirm employees were not such a burden to their families when they were used up and incapable of working those 60 hour weeks. This was the topic of conversation when my life long Republican uncle said that he had changed party affiliation because "today's GOP is dangerous".

Rather than accepting that their policies have contributed to the current economic climate, they continue upon a path that benefits the few over the many. Corporations could be said to be people if one factors in the people that work for them, however, the policies of today are intended to benefit the bottom line of the corporate fat cats running them rather than the people who actually do the work.

Policies that strip the elderly, infirm and poor of any benefit they have earned through their labors. Policies that have allowed those at the top of the heap to hang onto and even take more from the pie leaving less to be fed to those below them who actually do the work which allows them to reap the profit. Policies which take from the people to give to the Pentagon so they may wage war on other countries and call it defense of the American Way of Life.

I think he's right, today's GOP really is dangerous and I can't see any way of stopping them unless we vote for humanity and not corporate welfare. The problem is, history isn't popular among the people who really should pay attention to it.


  1. The good uncle. A wonderful story. Wish I could say there were democrats in my family, (beyond the inner circle) if there are any they hide it well.

  2. unfortunately we get who we vote for, and much of the American public is portly informed and easily led around by sound bites and propaganda. The poorest and most ignorant sections of the country tend to vote Republican against their own best interest - these are also the most fundamentally religious sections of the country: Do you see a connection?
    the Ol'Buzzard