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Why Life Is Harder Now Than In The 60s

August 6, 2020

by John Spritzler

[The URL of this article is ]



A person on Facebook named Sherrie recently posted this story that illustrates what's happened since the 1960s:

I want to tell you a story. I have told this story many, many times.

When I was 18 years old, I had just graduated high school. My mother, a nurse, made me take a job at St. Francis Hospital. I worked in the Emergency Room. Basically, this was my first job. I had paid vacation time, paid health insurance, paid days off, paid sick days, paid family leave, and college assistance. I made two dollars over minimum wage. This job afforded me an apartment, 3 vehicles (all less than five years old and paid in full), and I paid cash for college. Now where in this country is this possible today?

This is what we have allowed to happen. Young people today in their first jobs have nothing. NOTHING! No insurance, no vacation time, no sick days, no time off, and they can not afford housing. We lost all of this because of politics.


Here's a graph that shows this woman's personal story is the story of ALL working class Americans:


This is why it is no longer possible for one working class parent to support a stay-at-home spouse and children, and why now both parents must work.




The reason there was a dramatic change in the 1970s, rather than, say in an earlier or a later decade, is because of what happened in the 1960s.

From the time of FDR to LBJ, elite social control had been based on policies like the New Deal and the Great Society that were meant to convince working class Americans that corporate leadership would give them a better and more secure future. These policies, however, led to rising expectations and a sense of security that emboldened people to challenge authority over issues like the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, conditions of work, and welfare. In other words, the elite strategy of improving social conditions as a means of controlling people back-fired.

"The Radical 60s"

In the 1960s there was a dramatic uprising of ordinary people against the ruling classes of the world. In the United States there was a sharp increase in the militancy and radical perspective of the Civil Rights Movement. Welfare recipients were demanding that EVERYBODY be raised above the poverty line. The anti-Vietnam-war movement gained the support of the majority of the U.S. population. GIs were refusing to fight the Viet Cong (which is why Nixon had to withdraw troops from Vietnam in 1975.) There was a wave of wildcat labor strikes (strikes unauthorized by the official labor union, and hence not controlled by its typically conservative management-friendly leaders), including the 1970 national wildcat strike of 210,000 postal workers. And there was a wave of rebellions by black people in major U.S. cities!

It wasn't only in the United States where the 1960s decade earned its name, "the radical 60s." In South Africa the anti-apartheid movement was raging against the South African--and strongly U.S.-supported--government. In China the Red Guards were raging against existing authorities. In France there was a general strike in 1968 that came close to being a revolution.

The American ruling class was frightened!


How profoundly the 1960's affected the thinking of elite leadership can be seen in the writing of Samuel P. Huntington, Professor of Government and Director of the Center For International Affairs at Harvard University, and co-author of The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission written in 1975. [8] Huntington's Report noted that,


"The essence of the democratic surge of the 1960s was a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private,"[9] marked by a "sharp increase in political consciousness, political participation, and commitment to egalitarian and democratic values." [10]


What especially frightened the elite was the fact that, as Huntington wrote,


"In recent years, the operations of the democratic process do indeed appear to have generated a breakdown of traditional means of social control, a de-legitimation of political and other forms of authority... The late sixties have been a major turning point."[11]


The Report concluded:


"Al Smith once remarked that 'the only cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy.' Our analysis suggests that applying that cure at the present time could well be adding fuel to the flames. Instead, some of the problems of governance in the United States stem from an excess of democracy... Needed, instead, is a greater degree of moderation of democracy." [12]

"A Greater Degree of Moderation of Democracy"!!


Corporate leaders abandoned the old method of social control embodied in the New Deal and the Great Society and began relying instead on a fundamentally different, "get tough," strategy designed to strengthen corporate power over people by making them less secure. This new strategy motivates corporate leaders' new enthusiasm for the "discipline" of the free market, which they use to justify not only market-driven health care (read about this in more detail here)  but downsizing and attacks on the social safety net.

Following the radical 60s the ruling class implemented a new pattern of government and corporate policy initiatives over subsequent decades. These policies all have one thing in common: they strengthen corporate power over people by lowering people's expectations in life, and by reducing their economic, social, and emotional security.


These policies include corporate downsizing and the "temping" of jobs; the elimination of the "family wage," so that now both parents have to work full-time and have less time with their children; drastic cuts in the social safety net of welfare and related assistance; the introduction of pension plans based on individualized investments that leave each older person to his or her own fate; and the use of high stakes tests in public elementary and secondary schools to subject children to the same stress and insecurity that their parents face on the job. In the workplace, employers have adopted anti-worker tactics that had not been used since the early 1930s, most notably firing striking workers and hiring permanent replacements, as President Reagan did during the air traffic controllers' strike.


The ruling class treats us like dirt in all sorts of ways, many of which I discuss here. All these policies put people on the defensive and pressure us to worry more about personal survival than working together for social change.

The Moral of this Story

The ruling class is trying to lower our expectations in life because it fears us; it fears what we do when we have rising expectations as we did in the 1960s. The problem is not that we are weak and the ruling class is strong. Indeed, the ruling class is FRIGHTENED of our strength.

The problem is that we FEEL weak, and we ACT AS IF we were weak--exactly what the ruling class counts on.

We feel and act as if we were weak because the ruling class works hard to prevent us from knowing that in wanting to remove the rich from power to have real, not fake, democracy with no rich and no poor, we are the VAST MAJORITY. (See photos here of more than 500 of my zip code neighbors saying this is what they aim for--it's egalitarian revolution.)

Read here and here and here about what you can do, even as just one individual, to help build the egalitarian revolutionary movement.


5. Committee For Economic Development, "Building a National Health-Care System: A Statement on National Policy by the Research and Policy Committee of the Committee for Economic Development," CED, April 1973, New York, NY, p 22-23

6. Committee For Economic Development, "Reforming Health Care: A Market Prescription," CED, New York, 1987, p 6

7. Committee For Economic Development, "Reforming Health Care: A Market Prescription," CED, New York, 1987

8. Crozier, Michael J., Huntington, Samuel P., Watanuki, Joji, "The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission," New York University Press, New York, 1975, p 36

9. Crozier, p 74

10. Crozier, p 106

11. Crozier, p 8

12. Crozier, p 113

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