Hoping for a change in the new year
For my generation, each new year brought with it the promise of growing prosperity and a better future. But for today’s working generation and their children, each new year seems to bring disappointments, broken promises and dashed hopes. For them, the economic outlook is not rosy.In order to survive in the face of foreign competition, corporate America has been forced to outsource jobs to countries where wages are lower and there are not fringe benefits like pension plans and health care. And those companies which are trying to keep jobs in the United States have no choice but to reduce wages and cut or even eliminate fringe benefits in order to stay in business. The result is that many American workers and their families are seeing their pensions and dreams of retirement go up in smoke.The prospect for health care is equally grim. As employers pass an increasing portion of the cost of health insurance onto their workers, while at the same time cutting wages, more and more workers will be unable to keep their health care coverage, while the cost of medical care continues its upward spiral.Add to this the uncertainty over the future viability of Social Security and Medicare, which are also faced with shrinking revenues as incomes decline, and the prospect becomes even more gloomy.Working families are also confronted with the rapidly rising cost of housing, putting home ownership out of the reach of more and more of them. Making matters even worse is the escalating cost of all forms of energy, especially gasoline and heating fuels.Equally discouraging in the face of shrinking incomes is the steadily rising cost of higher education. Not only does this cloud the future hopes of the younger generation, it is also a threat to the economic future of our country. At the present time, the United States is graduating only 70,000 engineers each year, while China is graduating 300,000 each year, threatening the future of our technological supremacy.On top of all of this, the burden of our mushrooming national debt is being passed on to the middle class, who are becoming less and less able to afford it, while the wealthy continue to receive tax cuts.If we continue in the direction we are going, the result may well be a loss in faith in our system – in a Congress which fails to respond to the people’s plight, and a White House which chooses to ignore it. As history shows us, people without hope for their or their children’s future are likely to turn to alcohol or drugs to dull their sense of hopelessness; or to religion, which makes people submissive by holding out the hope for another and better life, free from the trials and tribulations of this life. Or they turn to revolution to replace the system which has failed them, usually with a demagogue who promises a better future in return for dictatorial power. Don’t say “It can’t happen here,” because that is exactly what happened the Weimar Republic in Germany that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler.The problems we are facing are daunting. I just hope that there is a leader in our future who has the answers we need, and that we as a people have the commitment and the strength needed to hold on to our democratic principals in the face of adversity.Next time: Some things we are not doing which could improve the economic outlook for present workers and their children.Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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In a fraction of a second I went from a full sprint to skidding across the ground — pea-sized gravel gashing my knees and elbows, turning them into strawberry crisp.