I am 56 years old. I grew up in the 60s and 70s. I know the 60s especially were a period of social upheaval and change, but it was a period of people coming together more. Labor unions organized to get workers decent wages, healthcare, and a stable retirement. We invested in public schools. We were wowed by and respected science and scholarship. We started talking about conservation and protecting the environment. We accepted that it cost money to do those things. We looked to the future with excitement and anticipation, but today, we seem to be in a rush to go backwards as far and fast as possible. We fear everything, and demand absolute security, and think it can be found in some nostalgic past.
America, through public and private cooperation and investment built an unrivaled infrastructure. We became the country that invented the things of a new and exciting world, and we built those things. The workers who did the building mostly got a decent wage that allowed them to live a decent and comfortable life, plan for the future, and set a foundation that raised the next generation a little higher.
The government created Social Security and Medicare so the disabled and elderly could live out their lives with some stability and small comforts. We built public schools and public colleges and universities. Trade schools and community colleges were developed to help those who needed an interim step on the financial ladder. And we all realized we had to chip in to pay for those things. As Barney Frank once said, “Government is what we choose to do together.” We made mostly good choices.
We built the machinery and the forces to win World War II. We put men on the moon, sent people to the deepest reaches of the seas, captured the power of the atom, and built (for better or worse) the internet. We laid the foundation to connect the world.