Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Second Gilded Age

For a great number of people life is a continuous struggle in the USA, working multiple jobs, spending long hours at the workplace, and yet no sign of upward mobility. Things look so bleak that there seems to be no future, however, this is not the first time the helplessness has prevailed over this country. Actually, we are now at the second gilded age. The first was at the turn of the nineteenth century, it was the time of the robber barons, when Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt reigned supreme.

“What do I care for the law”? Vanderbilt had quipped, “Hain’t I got the power?” Indeed, 48 of the 73 men holding cabinet posts between 1868 and 1896 either lobbied for the rail road, worked for them, presided over their boards, or, had relatives connected to that business. Things were actually even worse than today. In 1873, the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, Edward G. Ryan warned the graduating class of the state university, “The question will arise, and arise in your day, … which shall rule—wealth, or man; which shall lead—money or intellect; who shall fill public stations—educated and patriotic men, or the feudal serfs of corporate capital?”

Speaking in 1890, populist reformer, Mary Lease declared, “Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people and for the people, but Government of Wall Street, by Wall Street and for Wall Street.” Ohio Republican Senator John Sherman pushed his colleagues to act against the corporate power and was instrumental in getting the Sherman’s Antitrust Act passed in the Senate by 52 to 1 vote on July 2nd, 1890.

Initially Antitrust law was used against organized labor, but since President Teddy Roosevelt things started changing. The Republican president used the act against Harriman’s giant conglomerate Northern Securities Company that controlled transportation sector in the Northwest. President William Howard Taft, another Republican stalwart broke up Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company in 1911. The gigantic Bell System, AT&T was broken up under President Roland Reagan.

It is a tragedy that today’s Republican Party has become a corporate poodle breaking away from the tradition of their great leaders, and the Democratic Party serves as the poor second fiddle to the same master! Truly speaking the GOP started changing in the 1920s when increasingly the party began depending on the dole out from the corporations. Even after the great depression of 1929, the Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged cooperation between businesses, until he appointed Thurman Arnold in charge of the antitrust division of the Justice Department in 1938.

We are now at the peak of the second gilded edge, where power has been totally concentrated at the hand of the new robber barons. The situation is probably much worse now since the rich has nearly total control of the Media, thanks to Bill Clinton. The only ray of hope is coming from the internet where the playing field is nearly even. The young educated mass is increasingly becoming alert and conscious of their situation. Will they be able to bring a new revolution to restore the people power? Will they be able to bring the freedom of the little people back?

The youth say, yes. I say, I hope.

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