August 26, 2013
By Arthur H. Gunther III
I do not know where you live in this world or where your mind is in it, but I will tell you about the future of this planet. It could be seen clearly, not far from my Blauvelt, N.Y., home.
Driving down Western Highway, just before Dominican College, a private, Roman Catholic four-year institution, there was a “Welcome” sign on campus as volunteers directed freshman and their parents to parking areas. Vehicles filled with luggage, bedding, lamps and electronics and also jammed with adults plus young people came in an almost endless stream. You saw the anxious, sometimes puzzled, somewhat curious look on parents’ faces and, from students, a mix of excitement and apprehension. This was a scene repeated in almost countless locales across the United States, and with varying custom, in Europe, Asia, the world. It was the setting of another field of hope, the soil plowed, the fertilizer in place, and now new seeds were to be planted.
Yet there were storm clouds, too, and hope was mixed with worry. In these United States, where super-sized student loans are necessary to get most people through ever-more expensive colleges, the last fields were harvested just a few months ago, and the ripened fruit of four or so years of labor, following on 13 years of public or private school plus pre-school have yet to sell. There are few jobs for 2013 graduates, or 2012 graduates or 2011 graduates. …
In America, the middle class is shrinking, and with it the bulwark of democracy is weakened. Greedy special interests bent on maximizing profit without re-investment in society, in our young, in workers, in the promise of life are simply not employing enough people, firing longtime workers and hiring part-timers with little or no benefits. Pensions are disappearing.
And yet fresh college fields are plowed each summer, readied for a new crop of hopefuls who face unemployment and, if they work, a change of jobs many times in their lives.
Post-World War II America prospered because of the G.I. Bill for returning veterans, which educated professionals who could serve industry and big business, greatly enlarging a middle class withered by the Great Depression. There was strong economic growth and enough profit for many. The world benefitted as trade and commerce grew.
Today, despite the “Welcome” sign at our college campuses, even while seeds are planted in fresh fields of hope for our precious children, the storm clouds of unemployment and income grown principally for greed are ominous.
We should all show apprehension on our faces, not just freshman and their parents.
The writer is a retired newspaperman.