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8 Ways America's Headed Back to the Robber-Baron Era

We are recreating the Gilded Age, a period when corporations ruled this nation, buying politicians, using violence against unions and engaging in open corruption.

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The Gilded Age was a horrible time and I fear the nation slipping back into this hell of poverty, violence and hate. I believe that young people largely reject the extremist agenda that is hurtling us through a time machine to the bad old days of the 1890s, but they don’t have the power right now. Republicans know the demographics do not favor them and are trying to fix the game through voter suppression, packing the courts with extremists, and concentrating wealth and power so they can control politicians and the media.

During the Gilded Age, people throughout society began organizing for reform: labor unions, farmers, middle-class reformers. After 1900, this organizing paid off as government began passing reforms to alleviate the most extreme problems of the Gilded Age. Child labor laws, worker compensation for injuries at work, government regulation of the railroads, and the direct election of senators all took power away from corporations and put it back in the hands of the people. It wasn’t perfect, but it started the social reforms that created the American middle-class.

Like in the late 19th century, we need to take back our country from corporate control. We need to create well-paid jobs in the United States, revitalize the labor movement, and pass legislation to respect civil liberties, give undocumented immigrants legal status, and ensure that voting rights laws are enforced. Like our ancestors, we can fix these problems. First we need to recognize that the 1% has declared war upon the middle class and then we can start organizing to create the better tomorrow we crave.    

Erik Loomis is a professor of labor and environmental history and a blogger at Lawyers, Guns and Money .

 
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