Middle class will win class clashThe political hyperbole filling the airways the past two weeks reminds me of one of the first times I became aware of the differences in American political parties. As a young reporter, I learned quickly Republicans were high society; Democrats were working people like Mom and Dad.
By: By Catherine Coletta, Superior Telegram
The political hyperbole filling the airways the past two weeks reminds me of one of the first times I became aware of the differences in American political parties. As a young reporter, I learned quickly Republicans were high society; Democrats were working people like Mom and Dad.
A native of Chicago, where politics are part of everyday life, I was aware of local politicians. Precinct captains, aldermen and mayor were not as visible as they are today. Television didn’t arrive in our house until 1950. Politicians kept a low profile except, of course, the few weeks before an election. I didn’t care; I was a kid. What party was in charge of the city or state made no difference to me.
The radio made President Roosevelt part of our lives. We were all — even us kids — anxious to hear how the war was going. Grownups gathered around radios throughout those years awaiting news Germany and Japan finally surrendered.
Fast forward to the 1960s: As a cub reporter, I was assigned to cover a luncheon held by the local Republican women’s group. My boss, Alice Johnston, told me to go to the restaurant where the meeting was held. When I asked which banquet room the meeting would be in, she didn’t know.
“Just look for a room where a lot of women are gathered,” she said. I countered, “What if there is more than one group of women there?”
“That’s easy,” she said. “Republican women wear hats and gloves.”
I never forgot that remark and many times over my more than 50 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, I saw she was right. Republicans were different.
My father was a milkman and worked part-time at another job, and my mother worked on an assembly line making telephones for Western Electric. They worked hard to scrape together a small down payment for a house in the suburbs, and when that dream came true, they kept on working to make the payments.
My mother didn’t own a hat. She wore what Chicagoans call a “babushka.” Her gloves had holes in the fingers, the result wear and tear over many years. When my husband and I married and started raising a family, we learned quickly one job, or even two — one for him and one for me — would not support our growing family. Our boys had paper routes, shoveled sidewalks, cut grass — anything to earn pocket money. Our girls babysat for neighbors, helped older folks clean their homes to earn a little money for extracurricular activities.
When I was in high school, I enrolled in college prep courses, but I knew that a college education was not something I was going to ever have.
My husband took classes as a part-time student for years. Whenever he had a few hours free in a week, and we had a few bucks for tuition, he took accounting classes that helped him advance at work.
You see, there were no programs then to help people obtain a college education. There were no loans and no grants. Extremely smart or talented kids were able to snag the few scholarships offered. GI loans were scarce and only available to veterans.
That changed when our children reached college age. School officials began offering information on loans and scholarships almost as soon as the kids enrolled in high school. By graduation, our kids and their classmates were able to apply for help from many sources, and all six of them were able to go on to college.
What’s more, at age 43, I was able to go to school and get the college degree denied in 1953. We all were lucky enough to get Pell grants and loans to make that possible. Later our kids and I were able to get jobs that helped us pay back those loans so those who came after us could benefit.
Grants and scholarships were made possible by state and federal government made aware of the need by the vets being elected to public office and by ordinary men and women active in politics. Government provided help for education, housing, food and other necessities because people who were making laws had been there, done that.
They were not the Republicans who graduated from high-priced eastern universities. They were people who worked their way through school to improve their lives and those they loved. They knew, with a hand up, anyone could stand on his or her own feet. They knew, too, that people who had to work for an education and were successful, would pass that help along to others so they could make their own successes.
If the present day Republicans get their way, senior citizens will have to depend on their kids to survive, and that means those kids will have a really hard time providing help when their children need it. Generations of ordinary people will be pushed back to the way life was in the 1930s.
The rich man on the hill won’t be bothered looking at poor folks down at the bottom. We will be back to the time when parents will not be able to hope for or plan their children’s future. They will not be able to help their kids have lives better than they did. Instead of having a successful middle class that can take care of itself, and help those who come after them, the cycle of success will no longer be possible for ordinary families.
Republicans charge the Democrats who are fighting for a solid middle class are starting “class warfare.”
You bet your butt, it’s class warfare, but it isn’t the Democrats creating it; it’s guys like Mitt Romney who says proudly “I like to fire people.”
OK, Mitt, how about this? We won’t let you fire anyone; we won’t put you in a position where you have a chance to do that. You’re fired, before you start. Jump in one of those couple of Cadillacs your wife drives and go back to one of your several homes.
Mitt, you need a taste of reality: Try skipping a couple of meals. That growling in your stomach is a sound Moms and Dads across our country hear when they go to bed at night because they skipped a meal so their kids can have decent shoes when they go to school.
You bet it’s class warfare.
But be warned, we are going to win this war in November.
Catherine Coletta of Lake Nebagamon was a writer and investigative reporter for the Telegram. Before joining the Telegram, she was the managing editor of three suburban Chicago weekly newspapers.
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