To the editor:
In 1900 America, millions of children worked 14 hours six days a week in factories and mines. People starved or died of disease in abysmal tenements with no public health. Corporations fixed prices, controlled government and made huge profits by paying starvation wages. There was no minimum wage, overtime pay or unemployment insurance, and families had little protection from faulty or contaminated products.
Society comprised an extremely wealthy few, a weak middle class and masses of desperately poor people, most of whom remained so no matter how hard they worked.
The next six decades of liberal policy tamed the free market, resulting in the civilized America we take for granted. Liberals brought consumer protection, access to higher education, old-age security and labor standards. They also promoted strong, middle-class families through demand-side economic programs like the GI bill and FHA.
The post-World War II decades saw unprecedented economic strength built on a more democratic sharing of wealth. The top tax bracket was over 50 percent, a third of workers were union, one income supported a family and government budgets were balanced.
President Bush and many Republicans are really self-serving, free-market extremists. Behind an obscene charade of family values, they are ruthlessly working to dismantle the last remnants of real, pro-family policy. The middle class will continue to erode as wealth and power become even more concentrated at the top, with disastrous consequences for our society and democracy.
Those who deny history are indeed doomed to repeat it.
ROBERT POLACK Jr., Cape Girardeau