Americans share one unique characteristic: Almost all of our ancestors came from somewhere else. Most arrived seeking opportunity; others were freed to seek it following a divisive civil war. We share a fervent belief in "unalienable rights" asserted on July 4, 1776, in the Declaration of Independence.
Our history has been an inexorable quest for development of the continent and for the individual. We're driven by expectations that we can do anything we set our minds to do. But suddenly we face the expectation that life for the next generation will not be as good as it's been for us.
While the Chinese see opportunity in growth driven by "globalization" in America, we do not, for today the link is broken between the hard, productive work Americans perform and the rewards they receive. In fact, inflation-adjusted wages in America are lower today than they were in the 1970s.
Since 2000, incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans have grown at a rate of 11 percent a year, while incomes of the bottom 99 percent have basically remained flat. Gross income of the richest 1 percent of Americans is now 22 percent of the total income pie the highest since 1929.
To advance in the past two generations, we initially put women to work; then everyone worked more hours. Finally, in the last decades, we've borrowed, to spend beyond our means. We're now "totally spent" as individuals and as a nation.
"What's good for GM is good for America" might have been true in 1953, but not in today's global competition between nations. Henry Ford set a minimum wage of $5 per day to assure that "people could afford to buy what they make," a virtuous cycle. Today, low-end service employers pay their workers so little that their millions of American workers will never enjoy a middle-class lifestyle. No amount of "expert" reporting or analysis will change reality for most Americans.
In just the past decade, 4 million "good," high-paying, value-add-generating permanent jobs, including 10,000 in Colorado Springs, have been lost to other countries. Nearly 50,000 U.S.-based, goods-producing businesses, including 300 in Colorado Springs, have closed. Corporate leaders have used tax incentives to offshore our jobs. This short-term thinking is a major cause of the economic tailspin in America.
When wages rose with productivity, the average person could aspire to home and car ownership, receive benefits including health care and a pension, feed a family on a single income and pay taxes sufficient to bring the federal budget to balance. Many jobs created in the past 15 years have largely been lower-paying, contract or temporary, and in the service sectors. These jobs often lack benefits or eligibility for unemployment compensation, and even with a second income, don't pay enough to support a family.
What would our Founding Fathers say?
We need a government that works for the people as a whole. We need leadership government, nonprofit and corporate that acts in the national interest. Today's challenges are eerily similar to those confronted by our Founding Fathers. Can we find the way, as the Founding Fathers did for us, to preserve an economic and national security future, or will we succumb to greed that benefits only a few? Sustain opportunity and freedom, or relegate our children to penury and indenture?
To find out more, join Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Paul Revere's representative on Thursday, Oct. 2, to consider our own Tea Party, for our children and their children's sake.
Dave Anderson helped grow Mercury Electronics Manufacturing Services from $1 million to $100 million in revenue, with 800 people 250 at Colorado Springs subsidiary Skyline Electronics. Mike Callicrate is owner of Ranch Foods Direct, which sells locally produced natural meats in the Pikes Peak region.
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