During the 1980s, Kool & the Gang enjoyed a massive hit with “Celebration.” It was so popular it’s probably still on the charts somewhere.
The song fit its era. It was the go-go Reagan years (when the Go-Go’s also hit the charts) and plenty of people were in the mood to celebrate. As Michael Douglas put it in “Wall Street,” the movie that epitomized the era, “greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good.”
Twenty years on, people aren’t so confident. Soaring gas prices and sinking housing values have consumers worried. The media are in full campaign-year mode, trumpeting all the negative economic news they can find.
So let’s look on the sunny side for a change.
In an upcoming report on jobs and the economy, James Sherk points out that “today the typical American works in a better job than his or her parents did, and his or her children have a good chance of working in an even better job.” Indeed, there’s less dangerous factory work and more relatively safe office work.
Today’s jobs pay more, too. Economist Stephen Rose found that 13 percent more Americans earn inflation-adjusted salaries of $100,000 today than did so in 1979. That’s an awful lot of people getting awful wealthy.
Moreover, as The Washington Post reported in February, “median household net worth increased from $69,000 in 1989 to $93,000 in 2004.” The median household income before taxes is also higher, as are assets, home value and the amount of money in retirement accounts. These are the golden days.
Our country’s made a great leap forward in social policy as well.
As recently as 1908, the Methodist Social Creed called for, among other things:
· Equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life.
· The principles of conciliation and arbitration in industrial dissensions.
· The protection of the worker from dangerous machinery, occupational diseases, injuries and mortality.
· The abolition of child labor.
· A release from employment one day in seven.
Look how far we’ve come in 100 years. All those items could be checked off.
Not only is child labor non-existent today, many people don’t even begin adult labor until well into their 20s. Instead they’re collecting bachelor’s or advanced degrees that will help them obtain one of the high-paying jobs that our modern economy generates. And those jobs, by the way, are safe, thus accomplishing another of the social code’s stated goals.