The Broken Social Contract

The unwritten but very real and clearly understood social contract under which the citizens and workers of the United States and Canada developed the countries has now been broken by the wealthy classes, the owners of major industries and businesses and the politicians,   The contract is now invalid.  A new social contract is needed.

It was clearly understood by everyone in both countries, from the very beginning of the countries, that if men got what education they could, or wanted or needed, got a job, worked hard, were frugal with their money, they would eventually be able to buy a house, get married, raise a family, and eventually retire and live without undue financial stress due to the equity in their homes, their pensions and their savings.  A growing economic pie would provide enough jobs and wealth that everyone could have a good life if they were willing to work for it.  Everyone understood that.  That was the Social Contract.

In 1982 Ronald Reagan, who was probably the first moron elected President of the USA. began a war on government, stating it was the enemy not your friend, and a war on working people by beginning the process of rolling back gains U.S. workers had made in the 20th Century. Every President since Reagan, including President Obama, have continued the war on working people, by destroying labor unions and reducing benefits working people had fought for and gained in the last hundred years.

But, that was not enough for the wealthy classes, they wanted more from working people, much more; they wanted to send worker’s well paying jobs to countries with low wages so their corporations could make higher profits.  They wrote Free Trade Agreements and had their bought-and- paid-for politicians pass them into law, then they went around the world and had other nations pass them into law.  Then, just as Ross Perot said would happen, there was a great sucking sound as good American jobs sped overseas.  Corporate profits soared.

The greedy wealthy classes were not finished yet, they wanted more, much, much more.  They had their bought-and-paid-for politicians repeal the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999.  US banks then began an orgy of financial speculation that produced the economic crisis of 2008.  In their inimical fashion they demanded that the US government bail them out to cover their gambling losses.  The government gave them $700 billion.  Every man, woman and child in the USA was instantly $2,295 further in debt, debt owed by the US government, which the public would have to pay.  A family of three was now $6,885 further in debt.  It is probably not a stretch of the imagination to think the wealthy classes laughed their way to their mansions that day.  $700 BILLION DOLLARS!!

From 1980, when Reagan became President, to 2013, the top 1% of wage earners saw their income increase 137.7%.  The bottom 90% of workers saw their income increase by 15.2%.

In 1978 the corporate CEO to worker compensation ratio was 29.9 to 1.  In 1995 the ratio was 122.6 to 1, in 2000 it was 383.4 to 1, and 295.9 to 1 in 2013.

Income did not Trickle Down as Reagan and his henchmen said it would, income sped to the top, at almost warp speed.

While the rich were getting richer the US National Federal Debt grew to almost 18 TRILLION DOLLARS at the beginning of 2016, about $54,000 per capita, or $162,000 for a family of three.  This enormous amount of debt will either have to be paid down by the citizens of the USA or inflated away or renounced.   The wealthy classes, though, will not help pay this debt down, because, in the famous words of wealthy Leona Helmsley, “We don’t pay taxes.  Only the little people pay taxes.”  Wealthy people pay accountants, lawyers and estate planners to find ways to avoid paying taxes and ways of spiriting their money to safe havens in foreign countries.  And, the wealthy have politicians pass bills that reduce their income taxes and inheritance taxes.

In 2007 the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.5% of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%.  Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth, and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.  That gap widened after the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.

While the rich continued to get richer, good US jobs continued to go overseas to low wage countries, food stamp usage in the USA grew from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014, unemployed workers became discouraged about finding work, dropped out of the work force and the participation rate dropped from 67.3% to less than 63%.  While all this was happening the US per capita debt was growing exponentially, debts that the working class would have to pay through their future taxes, debts that the wealthy classes would not pay, because “We don’t pay taxes.  Only the little people pay taxes.”

In the 35 years since Ronald Reagan was President nothing has been done to improve the lives of workers in the nation.  Indeed, everything possible has been done by the wealthy class and their flunky politicians to reduce workers wages and benefits and to destroy their labor unions and saddle them with debts that can never be paid down.  There was, and is, no limit to the greed of the wealthy classes in the  USA or anywhere else.

No one ever asked the wealthy people, who owned the means of production, for charity or a handout, all that was asked is that they give workers a fair chance to get a good job at reasonable pay so they could lead a decent life.  The wealthy classes could not do that, their greed forced them to continue squeezing every penny they could out of the workers and the Nation itself.  The wealthy classes do not care if workers are underpaid, unemployed, are losing their homes and families, and that people are homeless and hungry.  They do not even care about their country.  All they care about is that their wealth, income and political and economic power continue to increase.  .

It is no longer possible for the vast majority of workers to get a good job that pays a living wage.  The economic pie is no longer being shared equitably.  The wealthy classes and their political flunkies have broken the Social Contract with the workers and people of the USA and Canada.

A new Social Contract is urgently needed; a Contract that a vast majority of citizens can agree upon.  A good place to start is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  especially Articles 22 to 25.

Article 22

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23

1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working  hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25

1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

The entire United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be read here.  Everyone should read it so they know what human rights they are entitled to if they can cooperate and work together to get them.

The wealthy classes of the world will never agree to allow the people of the world to live decent lives in accordance with the common sense articles of the UN Declaration unless they are forced to do so, either through the ballot box or by stronger means such as mass demonstrations and nonviolent civil disobedience.  If the latter is required it is highly probable that a majority of police and military personnel will join the demonstrations; they, too, are workers with the same needs as everyone else.

Understand that we need the assistance of others to survive.  We need the assistance of farmers, ranchers, fishermen, truck drivers, shoemakers, carpenters, plumbers, clothing makers, and every other worker in society today.  Everyone is important, everyone is needed.

We are weak when our differences divided us, incredibly strong when our common needs and desires unite us.

It is time to demand our rights.  It is time to demand that all Free Trade Agreements be repealed and good jobs stop being sent to low wage countries.  It is time for citizens to read the Declaration of Human Rights and demand that it become a law of the land.  Make copies of it.  Pass the copies around.  Discuss it with family, friends, neighbours and coworkers.  Organize.  Demand that our politicians support us.  Demonstrate.  Peacefully, without violence.   Violence always plays into their hand.  Turn any violent demonstrator over to the police, they are probably their agents anyway.

Demand that all Presidential Candidates agree that all Free Trade Agreements be repealed.  Demand that they take a stand, for or against, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights being enacted as a law of the land.  If they are against it demand to know why, especially why they are opposed to Articles 22, 23, 24, and 25.

Harvey Lothian is a 79-year-old man living on the Sunshine Coast of BC, Canada. His passions since a teenager have been history, politics, economics, sociology, social psychology, learning, traveling and reading. In recent years he has come to understand what Plato meant when he said all dogs have the soul of a philosopher. He can be reached Read other articles by Harvey.