Letter to the Editor: Which “Great” America Are We Talking About?

When people say they want to see America great again, to which period in America’s history do they refer? It must be a period within living memory. The consensus would probably be what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation” in his book by that name. The 40s and 50s were a time of great economic, world leadership and societal progress.

What was true of that era? The war against fascism was won. G.I.s returning home were provided free college education and lifetime healthcare. Social Security and Medicare ended poverty in retirement.  Most state colleges were built, and student loans were introduced. The interstate highway, major bridges and airports were built. Home ownership was underwritten by Fannie Mae and Fannie Mack. Union membership expanded, access to jobs was protected and employment was high. America rebuilt Europe and Japan and, to reduce the prospect of another world war, America co-founded and underwrote the United Nations and NATO.  

To pay for all these investments in prosperity and security, Americans paid higher income taxes across all income levels and progressively taxed the wealthy as much as 70%. 

If this is the Great America people have in mind, if these are the achievements that define America at its best, why are the people calling for a return to these days supporting politicians and policies designed to dismantle these achievements? Trump parrots fascist leaders of the 1930s, he actively defies the rule of law and calls for dismantling the Constitution. Republicans want to cut Social Security and have restricted voter access and access to affordable healthcare.  

Do you want to live in an America where you have fewer human rights, where a shrinking minority gerrymanders to stay in power? Do you want to live in an America where the top 10% amass ever greater fortunes while the bottom 30% struggle financially? Do you want to live in an America with growing racial and gender inequality? Do you want to live in an America that retreats from its leadership role in the world?

I don’t.  

Michael Harper

Gills Rock, Wisconsin