A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the 21st Century…

A funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century.

During the 1970s and culminating in the campaigns and administrations of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, that which was public (public housing, public education, public financial assistance, etc.) became black (bad) and that which was private (private schools, home ownership, good credit ratings) became white (good). Privatization became the answer to all the problems of society and the commons became corrupt spaces filled with fraud and waste. Taxes were cut, vouchers were cool, and poor people were riding in Cadillacs and eating bonbons.

A great many people, all colors all religions all levels of education, bought into this narrative and adopted it as not AN American way to think but THE American way to think. They then voted accordingly. Reagan Democrats became Republicans. The DLC with its liberal rhetoric but neo-liberal policies took control of the Democratic party. The Republican party went from fiscally conservative but socially moderate to crony capitalist and socially dictatorial. Now, here in the new millennium, we have an educational system that is underfunded, understaffed and under attack. We have working people, some in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, having to either have roommates or sleep in their cars because housing is unaffordable on a single salary or unavailable even with roommates anywhere near one’s place of employment. We have an entire economy within our economy that is based of charging poor folk for being poor. Payday lenders, car title lenders, sub-prime finance companies, check cashing stores, convenience stores that serve as the only places in entire neighborhoods where one can buy food all charge a premium for simply being available to poor people, thus making poor people pay more than people in higher income brackets and living in better neighborhoods.

Is this the country we want? Politicians using blatant racist rhetoric run for public office and lead in the polls. People working full time still need food stamps to feed their families and housing subsidies in order to shelter them. Public schools across the nation are now more segregated and unequal than they were in the 1960s. And then there is the stagnation of wages and the uncertainty of employment than is ever becoming more temporary and project related, the gig economy writ large. people are turning their cars into taxis and their homes into hotels trying to make ends meet. Thus, as privatization expands, privacy decreases and we all devolve from human beings to human chattel, our worth found not in our humanity, but our economy.


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