- Union busting. Destroying the air traffic controllers union was the final, definitive statement on how the public would henceforth think about the one thing that actually helped create the middle class, the union movement.
- Deregulation. Reagan didn’t just believe in and implement deregulation, he instilled henceforth into the public psyche the concept that regulation and jobs were mutually exclusive concepts.
- Trickle down. Reagan didn’t just believe in trickle-down economics and he didn’t just promote policies to accomplish it. He did something far more astonishing: he created a new economic “law” that said corporate power, increases in profit, and belief that the rich get richer were synonymous with economic prosperity for all.
First, the shift in burden leads to commensurate and seemingly never ending tax hikes, which put politicians on the defensive and, in a sound bite political environment, makes intelligent policy debate on the issue entirely impossible.
For the middle half of the 20th century, wages increased right alongside productivity. In the 1980’s, that all ended. We live in the most productive nation in the history of the planet, and yet our wages continue to mean less and less. Stock values increase in lockstep with exported (often quality) jobs and, their inevitable after-effect, layoffs. A successful economy simply cannot be built on principles that would allow that to happen.
That is the reality we have both created and nourished. So it may be time to face an ugly truth: wages in the United States are not going up again. First of all, there are simply not enough good paying jobs to match our population growth. Second, the only good paying jobs that remain require an advanced education.
Third, and, arguably worst of all, however, is that there aren’t even enough good paying jobs for people who actually do have an education. What that means is that graduation from a quality, four year college with a degree can often guaranty nothing. This is the first time in history that is the case.
Think about what that means for those who can’t access an education, regardless of the reason. It means they have virtually no chance to earn a family supporting wage.