Editor: When I grew up in the 1950s, our family owned our home, and my mother could afford to choose to stay home with us, even though my father earned a carpenter’s wages. I attended and graduated from The University of Texas with no debt. My professional degree has given me a life-long career that has been both rewarding and fulfilling. I am very grateful.
How was that possible? First of all, housing was affordable. Secondly, wages were supported by strong unions. Our home cost roughly one year’s salary. And, importantly, the tuition at The University of Texas equaled one week’s clerical wages. No kidding! Now the cost of a year at UT is over $22,000.
Furthermore, housing is no longer affordable for the working class. And, wages are no longer supported by organized labor. Those of us who are secure and doing well at my age are remiss to tell the younger generation to do what we did. They do not have the policies and programs in place that support their efforts the way we did. We lived our lives supported by the New Deal of FDR. That New Deal, however, has been systematically bombarded and attacked for the past 20 years.
Unions needed reform, yes, but they didn’t need dismantling. Every institution in America has come under fire for corruption at one time or another (church, government, corporate), but only one— unions—have been destroyed to the point of virtual irrelevance.
Enter the “working poor.” It is immoral for a society to build its wealth and its retirement portfolios on the backs of labor so cheap that a full-time worker cannot pay for the essentials of basic life. Charity is not the answer. And neither, especially, is the sentiment that this demographic is necessary to serve as a resource for our military. How cruel can we be? The reality that living wages plus low tuition equals self-responsibility has been buried under the cultural issues that divide us. And we have been seduced by our 401Ks.
The constant drum beat of low taxes at the state level has produced the obscene college costs that burden our children and grandchildren and will rob them of the ability to start businesses, buy homes and contribute to a vibrant economy. What then? Education is not a consumer good. Education is a public benefit for a public good.
All of these realities and more are the reasons I am supporting the political movement begun by Bernie Sanders on March 1. The economy is rigged. It has been bought and paid for by corporations, it no longer works for millions of families, and it burdens our children in a way that should put us to shame.
Enough is enough
S. Ann Robinson, Leesburg