Campus Voice: An American autumn

On the campaign trail this week Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry made comments comparing the Republican Party’s drive for tax cuts and deregulation to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s by saying “…America needs to be about freedom.”

I dare say Martin Luther King Jr., a democratic socialist, would likely agree with the aforementioned quote but would find the Governor’s comparison laughable.

Indeed the promise of America has always been the promise of freedom, but the freedom that Perry advocates is freedom for only a select, wealthy few.

Perry’s own quote gives leverage to the idea that America has not always lived up to that promise.

But judging by his record, Perry is referencing an episode in American history when big business was not allowed to monopolize our politics.

However, implying that we haven’t always lived up to our promise is correct but not for reasons that he would suggest. For the past four decades America’s promise has been one not of equal opportunity for all but a nationwide get rich quick scheme that has allowed a few Americans, free from government intervention, to get vastly richer while most of us have steadily fallen behind.

Big business has enjoyed the blessings of liberty birthed by the end of the 1960s. The liberty to ignore social responsibility, the liberty to crush unions and democracy on the job, the liberty to ignore or rewrite the law to suit their own agenda.

The end result? Wages have stagnated for four decades. The minimum wage, when adjusted for inflation, is at a historic low. Manufacturing has been outsourced and replaced with low-wage, non-union service sector jobs. The gap between the richest among us and everyone else now stands where it stood in 1929.

Americans have taken notice and dropped out of politics. Who can blame them? The working class majority has but a small contingent of support in Congress and next to no influence.

Disgruntled working class Americans who sat out of last November’s elections are learning all too well that dropping out is not a viable option. The only viable option going forward is a new politics of freedom. America must live up to her promise of a better freedom for all.

There are many models on which one can build the new politics of freedom. But I think that a good place to start would be the Second Bill of Rights proposed by President Franklin Roosevelt. Among the rights proposed by FDR were the rights to a job with a living wage, protection from unfair business practices, a right to a home, a right to medical care, a right to education and a right to social security in old age.

All these rights spell security, and they would all go a long way to fighting the hostile takeover of our democracy by vested corporate interests.

Across the Middle East the Arab Spring has brought a wave of democracy to a region formally in the grip of autocracy. The American economy, as it stands today, is a similar sort of autocracy with its own mini-Mubaraks and Qaddafis unchallenged and with near unlimited power to affect you and everything near and dear to you. Americans have always fought against tyranny, and economic tyranny is yet another injustice that we the people must overcome with an American Autumn for economic democracy and social justice.

So let’s do it in every way we can, America.

From making sure that we hold our elected officials from the school boards to Congress accountable to organizing a union to spread democracy to the workplace. Yes, that means here at Murray State, too. It’s high time that our underpaid and overworked staff, faculty and student workers stopped taking orders and started making demands. The power to change this country rests in your hands.