My brother, Seth, wrote a piece about Labor Day in which he asks why, if the US has emerged from the recession, the economic mood of the country remains so bad:
It’s not that Americans believe the economy isn’t working; they know it isn’t working for them. Their families are not getting ahead. Their lives are not improving — at least not from an economic standpoint.
Working Americans understand the economic facts of their lives, and they do not like what they see.
Americans believe firmly in fairness. Most Americans expect to work hard and be rewarded for their work. In today’s economy, they know that’s not happening.
Some cynics have tried to blame the unfairness in our economy on immigrants, big government (read, President Barack Obama) and even “social decline” (meaning same-sex marriage, among other issues).
But even casual news watchers know that large corporations are earning record profits while wages remain stagnant. Wall Street indexes reach record levels, but workers’ pensions are increasingly inadequate to support a dignified retirement.
Some companies abandon the United States in search of even lower taxes and less regulation. Congress acts as though American democracy is irreparably broken. The Supreme Court, on the same day this summer, recognized a corporation’s right to religious liberty, but denied that home health care workers are “full” employees of the state government that pays them, with the same right to organize as other state workers.
Working Americans can see that institutions — public and private — are failing them.