During the month of June, 2015, my publisher Rose Dog Press shall disseminate in both a soft cover and e-book format a literary effort to which I have devoted much of 2014 and the winter and spring of this year as well, ” America’s Future: Requiem or Renaissance?” An Agenda For The Transformation Of Our Nation And Ourselves.
This effort in activist scholarship was animated by the desire to provide a comprehensive course of individual action that our citizens might undertake to be responsive to so much of our current economic, political, and social circumstances that are both enormously dysfunctional and cause moral injury and material suffering to so many among us, particularly those who reside in the dungeons of poverty as well as those whose tenuous grasp on a middle class status is becoming ever more compromised and impaired.
Though there are numerous texts which have found their way to the American public in recent years that have set forward multi-tier critiques athat are reflective of a sophisticated and trenchant analysis of our contemporary cultural afflictions and the companionate unraveling of the efficacy and the influence or so many of our populace who are not members of the miniscule class of our plutocratic elite, few of these efforts have provided a strategic approach to the amelioration of these intensifying destructive forces that are consuming so much of our national heritage and the democratic normative predicate on which our country was constructed.
As a result, what has animated my undertaking has been two fundamental desires. The first is the wish to present a contemporary portrait of the current horrific social reality with which so many of our fellow Americans and being overwhelmed and diminished. The second objective is a fervent commitment to formulate and distribute both a vision and a strategy and the modalities and procedures for its total implementation that possess the potential to ameliorate the tragic current political apathy, impotence, and economic inequality that in which an overwhelming number of our fellow citizens are imprisoned.
This document is a blueprint to restore the efficacy of our population by augmenting the magnitude and success of ethical business enterprises, and compelling mammoth corporate enterprises both public companies and private financial institutions and others, to recind and reform their negative and culturally deforming behaviors or face extinction. These goals can be achieved by the commitment and exertions of our citizens who will no loonger permit the continuation of the current injustices for which these entities are responsible.
Recently, the newly installed CEO of Goldman Sachs recounted the struggles he confronted in acquiring an education. Moreover, he relayed the fact that one of his teachers during his adolescence suggested to his parents that with his meager intellectual capacities he would be fortunate to obtain a position as a truck driver.
Obviously, he has demonstrated that prediction was grieviously in error given his accomplishments in the world of investment banking. He further proclaimed that the principal antidote to the rampant and escalating inequality that has characterized our nation’s contemporary economic circumstances was the acquisition of various educational credentials which would enable their recipients to consign their interminable periods of residence in the dungeons of poverty in the U.S. to a regrettable personal history and enter the ranks of the thriving and robust American middle class.
Oh that this might be the future that those who implement his recommendations would be afforded. The realities surrounding this prediction are however, grieviously flawed and the prospects for its attainment are statistically grim and anemic at best.
At the moment approximately 70% of our nation’s population are bereft of college degrees of all and any character and level of accomplishment. The resources required to undertake various courses of study to acquire skills within a vocational or community college setting are beyond the capability of the overwhelming majority of these high school drop-outs/graduates who receive in most instances little more the minimum wage.
Moreover, many courses of study both within the public educational arena and the not for profit, non-profit and for profit arenas at the culmination of these academic efforts lead to very few job opportunities and thus the overwhelming majority of those who have become burdened with loan obligations to pursue these credentials find themselves unemployable and substantially in debt.
Those who are enrolled in degree programs whether it be within private colleges and universities or state institutions of higher education who successfully complete the acquisition of the various undergraduate degrees they have sought to acquire, nonetheless have discovered that our nation’s current economic climate is most inhospitable, i.e. in excess of 42% of current graduates are rewarded with job offers that pay little more than the minimum wage, or are in areas of the economy in which they have no interest, and/or are internships for which no compensation is provided.
As a result many of these students return to their parents homes and embark upon years of a schedule of loan repayments to the institution that provided the funds for their collegiate journey, delaying marriage and child rearing and experiencing a most spartan existence in which little but the bare necessities are affordable.
During the previous four decades in which the ideology of the neoconservatives has been in the ascendancy, globalization, the continuing replacement of employees by technological innovations, the dominance of the use of part-time contractors and “at will” staffing to achieve greater cost reductions in the wages provided to workers, the departure of many corporate headquarters from the U.S. to other nations as the result of mergers with foreign corporate entities which have reduced their tax obligations,
In addition, does there exist the unwillingness of corporate behemoths to repatriate the trillions in profits that reside outside the U.S., and the depredations that “activist investors” have inflicted with their obsession to compel boards of public companies and their senior management to continuously strive to increase the value of the equity they possess in these public companies.
Furthermore, these groups of investors also insist on ever augmented dividend payments, and a companionable demand that the increases in profitability which technological innovations attain must be allocated to the senior executives rather than to the employees of this company, have cumulatively conspired to greatly minimize the importance, relevance, and most importantly the capability of educational attainments to afford its recipients with a meaningful and significant access to the middle class.
At the moment approximately 4 million jobs are vacant, and approximately 23 million Americans are either unemployed, underemployed, so discourage that after months or years of seeking a position have in a state of discouragement and exhaustion ceased their efforts to obtain employment, and perhaps most tragically the numbers of those who fall within the category of the poor and the near-poor in our society exceeds 100 million.
What is required is a multi-tier comprehensive national program to both create those jobs necessary to rebuild our infrastructure, improve our public educational systems, and ensure that every American has access to an employment circumstance that is adequately compensated and provides for the use of their talents, training, and energies.
As December of 2013 was drawing to a close, nineteen scholars all united by their fierce dedication to the notion that our contemporary social and cultural circumstances were inequitable, oppressive, and in the central contravention of those principles on which this nation has been created, gathered on a frigid winter’s morning in Cambridge, Massachusetts to commence a five-year dialogue about America and its prospective future.
Recently, the McDonald’s corporation has taken to the airwaves to unveil their most recent efforts at rehabilitating their brand and their menu. For a number of their customers the cost to purchase various menu items will not require our nation’s currency, but rather a phone call from the patron to their mother for the purpose of conveying their love for the person who has given them life.
The continuing encroachment by technology upon human exertion in this nation and throughout other modern societies is consigning ever greater numbers of our citizens to a posture of economic irrelevance. In the unrelenting quest to automate and mechanize virtually all manufacturing activity and thus achieve unprecedented levels of efficiency and cost reductions and from a corporate perspective most importantly an increase in productivity, as the result of unprecedented combinations of technology/employee collaboration.
The incremental profits obtained from these procedures are allocated not to those employees in these commercial enterprises who are responsible for these increased profits, but rather to the senior executives of these corporations, augmented dividends to shareholders, and to the enhanced value which the equity in these companies reflect.
Inherent in this absurdity is to attain an objective that at some golden moment in the not too distant future completely eliminates the requirement of employees participation in these manufacturing processes. For when that state of technological supremacy has been realized then will the optimization of profits be both complete and insurmountable.
The ramifications of this “accomplishment” will be to swell the populations of the unemployed, further concentrate the accumulations of wealth and political influence among those who are presently so disproportionately the recipients of these material and governmental forms of largesse, and given the disappearance of sources of revenue by those who are terminated, shall reduce the capacity of our citizens to purchase consumer products or engage in any economic transactions other than those which literally sustain their very existences. From these realities homelessness shall rise dramatically, crime will markedly increase, marriages will succumb to the pressures of poverty, alcohol and drug dependency will escalate, and the ferocious competition for employment in any capacity shall become ever more fervid.
Moreover, public systems of law enforcement, education, social services, and recreation and arts and cultural programs shall all become the proportional casualties of ever reduced funding and the massive increase in those client populations which require these services to remain viable.
In the final analysis, these burgeoning forces and trends shall further exacerbate in a national context what Mayor De Blasio characterized in his successful recent bid to become the Chief Executive of our nation’s premier municipality, New York, “A tale of two countries ever more estranged and ever more unequal.” In a country that presently reflects an unemployment rate that is in excess of 15%, where more than 50 million citizens receive food stamps to supplement their inadequate nutritional budgets, and where vast areas of both rural and urban environments lie deserted and fallow, because major corporations have relocated to domestic or overseas locales which have proffered obscenely generous tax forgiveness incentives, and other substantial financial inducements in order to attract these companies to these areas and provide the employment opportunities their manufacturing activities require.
It is as a result of this unceasing quest to take up commercial residence in those localities that embody “right to work” laws, and are thus inhospitable to union activity, and prevailing wage levels that are almost always below that which exists in other union friendly environments, and of course the lengthy periods of immunity from state taxes and other traditional costs of business which these entities absorb in more enlightened and progressive politically sovereign jurisdictions, that are cumulatively responsible for the unceasing expansion of the universe of those who are involuntarily consigned to idleness, with all that flows from that state in terms of self-loathing, retreats into alcoholic dependency to anesthetize the anguish which their economic status reflects and in the most tragic eventualities, when their suffering is insupportable will bring their lives to a close.
The sole and exclusive concern of those who control and direct the activities of these companies is the pursuit of the maximization of profit, irrespective of the implications and consequences to their employees, the environment, and the frequently traumatic repercussions and havoc to the larger communities and regions which their departure creates.
To wish to reduce the drudgery and danger of manufacturing procedures that are unhealthful or mind-numbing or produce casualties of body and spirit is a laudable and noble objective. However, the question becomes subsequent to their elimination from the workplace how does our society allocate to these individuals that which is equitable and allows then to engage in both our economy and the crucially necessary psychological engagement in labor that is indispensable to their self-worth? We may very well be entering into an era where the 40 hour work week is an antiquated concept which is no longer necessary. In order to ensure the involvement of those who are currently unengaged, a 25 hour period of involvement in the economy may be sufficient to both sustain our economic levels of productivity for most individuals. If the minimum wage were elevated to $15 per hour a family of two wage-earners could provide a middle-class existence for their children and themselves for a work week of this duration.
Moreover, there is presently an enormous and urgent need to repair and modernize our nation’s infrastructure, surely this is work that is both crucial and rewarding, and many of those who currently sit idle would be ecstatic at the prospect of being involved in these efforts from both a sense of meaningfully contributing to our country’s viability and the relatively substantial wages which those with these skills and craft aptitudes are compensated.
Finally, a 25 hour work week would allow our citizens to reduce the current levels of stress and anxiety which plague so many of us as employees, parents, siblings, friends, and other important roles we assume in the current work schedules which often extend to 50 hours or beyond. Additional “volitional” time would enable us to enrich our lives our families and our communities and most crucially would permit us in postures of exploration, contemplation, and analysis, to examine our lives and our society and formulate those models of social justice that we wish the American culture to incorporate and gravitate toward and the strategic and tactical political processes that must be created and employed to attain these substantive improvements in the quality of our individual lives as well as those of us who collectively comprise this nation.
The epic struggle in which we are engaged is in some quintessential regard the imperative requirement to reduce the political influence of these corporate behemoths and increase those burgeoning voices and efficacy of our fellow citizens and the thousands of organizations that currently exist to transform America into an ever more coherent, persuasive, and formidable, force of moral persuasion that will ultimately achieve the humanizing objectives which are possible when the juggernaut of technology is subordinated to its appropriate posture of democritization both in the United States and beyond our borders in other industrial societies.