Here we are in the second decade of the 21st century, and yet the Tea Party Movement and the Republican Party contains within itself a great nostalgia for the past–the 19th century Gilded Age!
Why is the Gilded Age seen in such a positive light by the Right Wing of the Republican Party? Let us count the ways in no special order!
1. Labor unions were struggling to survive, and workers were working long hours under horrible work conditions with no protection and no basic rights for the working men, women and children. Yes, children as young as 6 were working for menial pay, as well as women being paid less than men.
2. Immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe and Asia were being discriminated against, and paid less than “native born” workers, and living in slums in the big cities.
3. Women had no rights legally and were not allowed to vote or control their work conditions.
4. No one had any health care, pension, minimum wage protection or sick leave or vacation leave, and could be fired on a whim of the employer.
5. African Americans mostly lived in the South and faced segregation, lynchings, and sharecropper poverty, and civil rights of any kind did not exist.
6. Corporations ruled in America, major monopolies which corrupted the political system on all levels–national, state and local.
7. State and local governments controlled just about every aspect of their population’s lives in a very inadequate manner, and the federal government was extremely minimal in its impact upon the people.
8. There was no social safety net of any kind, other than churches and other organizations which were unable to do much for those less fortunate, in poverty, or having serious medical ills.
9. Racial supremacy was a widely held belief, along with Laissez Faire Economics and Social Darwinism.
10. Education was minimal for the vast majority of the population, and therefore allowed little social mobility for the average American.
11. If natural disasters occurred, little assistance or aid was available, except to pray to God for divine guidance.
This nostalgia today is VERY SIMILAR to the above reality of the Gilded Age, but we have had a century of reform, including the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the Great Society and other reforms on specific issues at other times!
We have had reform oriented Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon and Barack Obama promote major changes that have made America a better nation!
Now the proposal of the Right Wing in the GOP is to reverse the reforms and changes that have made America an improved nation over the past century. The desire is to negate, to veto, to wipe out the social safety net, labor reforms, and so many other hard earned reforms. This is being offered as the GOP answer to the economic crisis we are in, as if making things worse and protecting the corporations and the extremely wealthy is the answer to our difficulties!
Returning to the Gilded Age is precisely the wrong thing to do! We cannot allow such a disaster to occur in 2011, or EVER!