Thanks to James Fallows, I was directed to a terrific speech delivered before the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics by the president of the AFL-CIO, Richard L. Trumka. You can read it yourself here, but here’s a choice excerpt:
The fact is that for a generation we have built our economy on a lie—that we can have a low-wage, high-consumption society and paper over the contradiction with cheap credit funded by our foreign trading partners and financial sector profits made by taking a cut of the flow of cheap credit.
So now a lot of Americans are angry. And we should be angry. And just as we have seen throughout history, there are plenty of purveyors of hate and division looking to profit from our hurt and our anger.
I am a student of history, and now is the time to remember our history as a nation. Remember that when President Franklin Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” other voices were on the radio, voices saying that what we really needed to fear was each other – voices preaching anti-Semitism and Nazi-style racial hatred.
I agree with everything Trumka says, except that he points the finger entirely at the fat cats of Wall Street. While I agree that Wall Street bears the lion’s share of blame, working people are not exactly above guilt in the situation we find ourselves in. They (we) have been all too happy to embrace the low, low price mentality of Wal-Mart, the one that has helped shove our manufacturing jobs overseas. And when activists have tried to explain this, they have been met with belligerence and the accusation of elitism. You can’t have cheap toasters and high-paying manufacturing jobs.