New York Times columnist Bob Herbert recently commented on the dangers lurking in the vast inequalities of wealth in America and the sharp contrast between unprecedented corporate profits and near-depression-level rates of unemployment. “There is no way to bring America’s consumer economy back to robust health if unemployment is chronically high, wages remain stagnant and the jobs that are created are poor ones,” he warns. “Without ordinary Americans spending their earnings from good jobs, any hope of a meaningful, long-term recovery is doomed.”
Leaders in North Carolina should listen up. The current Great Recession has eliminated thousands of jobs in the state’s already ailing traditional industries: textiles, tobacco, and furniture manufacturing. And those jobs aren’t coming back. What will replace them? How that question is answered will affect the welfare of us all. Will we slip backwards into a “new normal” of high unemployment and intractable poverty, or will we chart a creative course toward economic security and opportunity for the many rather than just the few? “What’s really needed,” Herbert suggests, “is for working Americans to form alliances and try, in a spirit of good will, to work out equitable solutions to the myriad problems facing so many ordinary individuals and families. Strong leaders are needed to develop such alliances and fight back against the forces that nearly destroyed the economy and have left working Americans in the lurch.” The story of the North Carolina Fund has important lessons to teach about how those alliances might be forged and how new leadership might be nurtured from the bottom up.
Read Bob Herbert’s essay on “Winning the Class War”: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/27/opinion/27herbert.html