by Jim Hightower
Labor Day is all about our country’s long striving toward the ideal of egalitarianism, which really is the Big Idea of America itself--the idea that we might create a society based on the democratic values of economic fairness, social justice, and equal opportunity for all.
The practical expression of this ideal is in the creation of the middle class, an economic haven from laissez-faire greed, allowing the great majority of workaday folks to pursue happiness without the vicissitudes of oppressive poverty.
But a middle-class possibility is not a given in our country, for the forces of greed are constantly pushing to eliminate it. We have a middle class because our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents fought, bled and died to create the framework that allows people to climb up. It’s a framework composed of wage-and-hour laws, minimum wage, social security, public education, affordable housing, medicare, the GI bill, Head Start ... and many more elements.
Yet, this is the very framework now being so rapidly and gleefully dismantled
by Washington and Wall Street, knocking down millions of working families and
cutting off middle-class opportunities for young people. Even though ours is the
richest economy in the world:
• Every day in America, 85,444 workers lose their jobs;
• 14.7 million Americans are jobless,underemployed, or have given up looking
• 6.8 million Americans are at work, but live in poverty, because of the
low wages of their jobs.
America today is in another of those “When-in-the-course-of-human-events”
moments that Jefferson wrote about in 1776. It's time for all of us to fight anew
for our middle-class framework and to recommit to America’s historic egalitarian
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of "Let's Stop
Beating Around the Bush," on sale from Viking Press. For more information,