Labor Day weekend is here — and that means that another summer has come and gone.
Children in many communities already have begun the new school year, though ironically, the best weather of the summer has been happening this week.
Labor Day weekend always provides a good time to reflect as we look back on the summer that has passed and look ahead to the resumption of our busy schedules that seem to leave us with precious little time.
Labor Day has its roots in the American labor movement. It was created at a time (in the late 19th century) before there were many of the laws — child labor laws, worker safety laws, a 40-hour work week, and so forth — that we take for granted today.
However, we seem to be living in an era that hearkens back to the conditions of the late 19th century. Workers’ unions, which were in their infancy then and seen as a negative force in American life, have become almost extinct today and once again are portrayed as un-American. The late 19th century was known as the Gilded Age when monopolies threatened to destroy the American system of capitalism — and that history is repeating itself in almost every respect today.
The French economist Thomas Piketty’s exhaustive research has shown what Karl Marx observed — that the growth of income from capital exceeds the growth of income from labor, which is another way of saying that in an unfettered capitalist system, without the counterweights of a strong labor movement and effective government regulation, the very rich get richer and the rest of us (the other 99.9 percent) either stagnate or get poorer.
This has been borne out by the economic history of the United States over the past 30 years (beginning with the Presidency of Ronald Reagan) in which the great American middle-class, the economic engine of the world post-World War II, has all but disappeared. Wage growth for the typical American has been stagnant for three decades while the amassing of huge fortunes, both in absolute terms and in terms of the percentage of our national wealth and income, has increased exponentially for the top one-tenth of one percent.
No one would accuse the Germans, who have had the most successful economy in the world for decades, of being Sociaiists (the French seem to earn that moniker from the far right), but they do a lot of “socialistic” things in the running of their economy that would be scorned here — and yes, they even take more vacation time than we do (almost as much as the French).
With the forecast for sunny skies and warm temperatures, we wish our readers an enjoyable — and safe — Labor Day weekend, and that we keep in mind that Labor Day was created as a celebration of the average American worker.