To the editor:
During my childhood in the 30s and 40s poverty was real. The economy needed a tune up. The Work Project Administration (WPA) became one tool of compassionate capitalism for employing thousands of unskilled laborers for jobs like building the road on Brockway Mountain. As an old timer said,. “We didn’t have money. All we had was each other.” Yep! We had mutual responsibility for one – another’s well-being.
That continued during WWII. It involved sacrifices from kids as well as adults. We didn’t get new shirts or shoes. We went barefoot during the summer. Flour came in 50# cloth bags. We could recycle them into shirts and underwear which freed cloth for soldier’s uniforms. Every 3 months neighbors gathered at school to buy war bonds. My goal was to save 10 Cents for a war stamp. My parent’s goal was to save $5 toward a war bond in order that gas could be purchased for the trucks. tanks and planes. “How much of myself can I give to you so that we can all live and be safe?.” was again the common attitude of that day.
Following the war, the economy again required a compassionate tune-up. The G.I. Bill provided white veterans with low-interest mortgages, stipends covering tuition for college or trade schools, and made unemployment benefits available.. Colleges and trade centers boomed, incomes rose and the housing market blossomed A white janitor could own a car, a home, and care for his family.
But the G.I Bill was only partially compassionate. The Southern Representatives included a clause which allowed banks to discriminate which enabled segregation to continue. About 16 million white vets had access while the 1.6 million blacks were put at a disadvantage. .” In New York and northern New Jersey, fewer than 100 of the 67,000 houses backed by the GI Bill supported non-whites.” Similar disparity occurred in education. (1)
Jumping ahead, how is Capitalism working today? Here are the statistics which shock me!
According to www.statistics.com in 2019 the wealth of America, prior to the pandemic, was divided this way. The top 1% of the population owns38% and the next 9 % owns 32% of this country’s wealth. The article’s summary is that the: The top 10% of population owns 70% of U.S. wealth. The middle 40% of the population owns of 28 % of the wealth. Bottom 50% of population owns 2 % of the wealth.
Is the above economy “the greatest in the world”? Yes.
Are 50% of our people lazy? No.
I believe the protests in our streets with an abundance of both white and black citizens involved are reflecting both the racism and inequality of our systems.
Just as we benefited from creative policies in the distant past we now need fresh policies that implement Capitalism in a different way. Let’s begin by encouraging our representatives in Washington to work together, to cease their political bickering and pass a second stimulus package now that our country desperately needs.
I pray that we, the people this great nation, will tone down our idolatry of insisting only on individual freedoms, take responsibility for one another’s wellbeing, and embrace Winston Churchill’s words, “The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings.”
The sharing of freedom and economic blessings is indeed Compassionate Capitalism.
Editor’s note: The footnote that is included in this letter is as follows: (1) “How Black WWII vets were denied G.I. benefits,” by Robert Levinson, Sept. 11, 2020.