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Gather all these mournful numbers -- the millions of Americans unable to find work, the 70 percent of workers under 35 who are unable to set aside any money, the nearly two out of three Americans approaching retirement age who fear they won't be able to retire, and the sub-nation of low-wage Americans routinely cheated on the job -- and what emerges is a picture of a country in decline. The first nation in human history to create a middle-class majority looks increasingly to be losing it. The economic security that was common, though by no means universal, in this country when the institutions created by the New Deal were strong, often provided by unionized corporations that felt compelled to offer insurance and pensions to their workers, is as dead as the dodo.
The Reaganite ideology of the past 30 years insisted that if Americans were freed from the constraints of government and unions and made responsible for their own economic security, a golden age would come. Sure enough, American businesses have eluded regulation and cast off their unions -- but they've left their workers in the lurch. If we fail to enact universal health care and laws that truly make it possible for workers to form unions again, each of our Labor Days will be grimmer than the last.