Fight for a Decent Society or Inherit a Worse One

The following was given as a speech given at the Defend the American Dream Rally, Boston, Massachussetts, March 15, 2011:

I am delighted to be here today with you as we defend the American Dream from those seeking to turn our society back a century or more. I am President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, an organization whose members are psychologists and other mental health professionals and behavioral scientists who use their knowledge and expertise to further peace and social justice. We treat those having emotional problems which interfere with their functioning, promote peaceful strategies for conflict resolution and the development of healthy communities, bring social justice concerns to the teaching of psychology, and do research to improve our efforts. The massive budget cuts will injure the interests of both professionals like our members and the people we serve and teach. And the research to improve those services will be cut.

Now these cuts demonstrate a particularly ugly side of our country and its culture at this decisive time in our history. For they are overwhelmingly aimed at the most needy among us: the poor needing help with food and housing; the emotionally disturbed needing help coping better with their feelings and coping with social pressures; students from poor and middle class families who will face larger classrooms and unhappy teachers in K-12 and higher tuition in college with less financial aid available.

While bankers and other business leaders have become obscenely rich by stealing our homes, laying us off or sending our jobs overseas, robbing many of us of our futures, and destroying our economy, others have been working, at modest pay to help their fellow citizens. Many of these people work in the public sector or have jobs which depend upon public sector funding; our teachers and our social workers; our librarians and psychologists; our doctors, nurses, and home health aides. For a decent society is a society which takes care of those in need and in which those who take care of others are valued, not devalued and demonized as has happened all too often in recent months, by politicians and pundits from the Republican Party, but, to be honest, not only from that party.

There is another factor that needs to be mentioned. Most of these helping professions are overwhelmingly female. Over 80% of public school teachers are women, as are over 90% of our nurses. We cannot separate the attack on public sector workers and those whose work is funded by the public sector from the vicious attack on women and their rights that we are seeing across the country as efforts are made to ban abortion, to demonize those who seek and provide abortions, to abolish family planning services, and even to criminalize miscarriages.

If these cutbacks are implemented, our helping workers, largely women, will be laid off or have their wages and benefits cut. Also cut will be those, often men, who build and construct and whose efforts are vitally needed to fix and improve our crumbling physical infrastructure. A decent society would not let either of these possibilities happen.

Also important to recognize is that these cuts are not needed. While there is a long-term deficit problem, a decent society would dramatically expand spending on needed services and infrastructure at this time of mass unemployment and increased need. And after an economic recovery, when we do need to deal with the deficit, a decent society would not cut services but would take three needed steps. A decent society would dramatically increase taxes on those ultra-rich who swept up virtually all of the vast increases in wealth in our society over the last 40 years. A decent society would dramatically reduce the obscene war budget that has us spending more than all other countries combined on weapons and means of destruction. And a decent society would confront the escalating health costs, even if it meant taking on the pharmaceutical, insurance and hospital industries that get wealthy far beyond their contribution to the welfare of the majority of us.

As we go together into the future we should remember that either we will fight together for a better, more decent, society or we, our children, and even our grandchildren will inherit a far worse one.

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