Paul Bonnifield: Start of a golden age
August 12, 2014
I see America and its future in a much different way than Joe Meglen's article, "The state of the union: Unleash free markets that made America great."
When I was a boy, people talked about the terrible conditions while living in Routt County's company mining town. Miners were required to live in company houses or rooming houses. Rent was set by the company. Employees were forced to buy at the company store. Pay was in script and not real money. Mine safety was a farce. Annually, men were either hurt or killed, and company spies were everywhere. Working conditions resulted in several bloody labor wars.
The New Deal's Wagner Acts placed strict federal regulations and standards on mining companies. Now, miners own their own home, pay is in real money and mines are safer. Bloody labor wars ended with government intervention.
In his autobiography, "The Confession of a Maverick," Ferry Carpenter tells of a destitute old man who applied to the county's poor fund. They gave him a box of 22 shells to shoot jackrabbits. Before Social Security, getting old was a fearful experience for many Americans.
Since then, millions of Americans have lived out their last years in relative comfort. Despite its success, conservatives continue to criticize it for restricting free markets, being too expensive and promoting socialism. Nonetheless, millions of Americans depend upon Social Security and millions more are looking forward to drawing it.
The national debt was out of control. Government was smothering business under regulations. The national government was too large and invading everyone's life. Taxes were crushing individuals and business.
Instead of failing, it was a golden age with real income going up for many Americans. It was the epic of the greatest generation in American history, and conservatives look back at it with nostalgia.
The 1960s and '70s were one of the wildest rides in our history. The nation witnessed immense changes. Many ultraconservatives have refused to accept the changes. The Civil Rights Acts resulted in women and minorities having more freedom and opportunity than any time in all history. Because of the Environmental Protection Agency, our corporations no longer dumped raw sewage into rivers, and our air became safer to breathe. Because of federal regulations, our food was safer to eat. Federal medical assistance allowed people to correct hundreds of health problems rather than suffer. We live longer and healthier lives. We depend upon our government to meet the constitutional responsibility of providing for the common defense and general welfare.
Right now, Americans are freer than in the past. They are living longer and enjoying their last years. Opportunities are plentiful for those who see it and have the courage to try. The nation's future is bright. We have no problems we cannot overcome. We are our own worst enemy. We must stop feeling sorry for ourselves and preaching gloom and doom.
We're not on our deathbed. We're at the beginning of a grand and golden age.