A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance Co.Executive Offices, Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board Little People Big Things By Bernard Rapoport \(The following speech was made to a meeting of the Minnesota AFL-CIO on The thought I would like to share with you is that we have become tools of tools. Simply stated, our technology controls us. We have become dispirited, for the reason that we have given in. We have, it seems, concluded that there is an inexorability in the trend of our society; we don’t like where this trend leads and we feel lost because we don’t think there is anything we can do about it. Victor Frankel, the great psychiatrist who was a victim of a concentration camp, on being asked how he was able to survive, responded with a quotation from Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” While it may seem that we do not need to explore the why as to why we should live, that conclusion may in fact be subject to question. What should be incontrovertible is that we should have no need to explore the why. It’s always easy to talk about the good old days, and those of us who have been around for awhile know that the good oid days are tomorrow, or more importantly they should be. The why of why we should live has to relate to the quality of life for the citizenry of the United States. We must begin to do those things and demand of our elected representatives that they enact that kind of legislation that is going to reverse some of the trends that are causing this lack of optimism about the future. The two most materially alienating factors in our country are inflation and unemployment. What this country needs is not capital investments nearly so much as it needs a few labor-making inventions. People really do want to work. They are not born indolent and lazy. One of the factors that contributes to their being so when they are is that the ma. , chine is accorded more dignity and generally is treated with more care than the individual. It’s true, we really have more of a feeling of awe for the machine than we do for a human being. Far too many Americans don’t have anything to look backward to with pride and nothing to look forward to with hope. At some point we have to come to grips with understanding the needs of our society and at the same time measure that \(those the individual personality when he or she receives materiaithings without having to put forth an effort. It’s fashionable to condemn all forms of welfare, but that doesn’t eliminate the need for it. In so many instances to deny the need of welfare is neither realistic nor humane. To discover what’s wrong with you and me is going to take a lot longer than 10 minutes. We want final easy answers and that is what’s frightening. You who are the leaders of the labor movement must be cognizant that this pluralistic society of ours in which you have a multitude of militant groups all pulling violently on the social fabric can produce what the French would call a state of ennui, total disorder. This is when populations sometimes decide to settle for dictatorships. History affirms that the least permanent of man-made institutions is government. We have something very precious in America, this democracy of ours, and too many of us take it for granted instead of being committed to making it work. Makng it work means providing access into the areas of opportunities for all Americans. In simple terms, Americans want jobs,’ and some eight or nine million Americans can’t find them. Many millions would like to be farmers, but the realities are that small farmers can’t survive economically. Some people want to be in small business, but capital requirements are such that it’s increasingly difficult for someone to go into business for themselves. This is what has to change in America. We have got to provide an access for our citizenry into those areas, even if it means that we have to put a tax on bigness so that things get a little smaller and people count for more, and our elected representatives are going to have to stand up to the giant corporations and say “Baby, you have had it. From now on the people are going to come first.” It isn’t too late, and yet we don’t have that much time. It’s a sad commentary that we can get so wrought up about a football game, an outmoded Panama Canal, a wet or things that really put meaning into our lives, we just gripe and don’t do much about them. As I indicated, the reason that we don’t do too much about our gripes is that we have to a great extent lost our spirit. The sensationalism that newspapers, radio and TV fill the pages and the airways with when corruption is exposed is an important service. This leads to the conclusion that is is easier to ferret out corruption than it is to contain power. Our loss of spirit is because we do not think that there is anything that we really can do about the accumulation of power. When some legislator proposes breaking up the big oil companies or at least stopping their horizontal accumulation of domain over other industries such as coal, newspapers, gigantic merchandizing companies, with resignation we say “Well, there’s really nothing you can do about it.” Yet if we don’t, the why to live is not as meaningful as if we as Americans felt that any of our societal problems were ones that we could do something about. So many little things could be done. If interest rates were lower, people could own their own homes once again. Look how many more jobs would be available. The single most important change that you as citizens should insist on is access to credit. The homestead law which enabled so many Americans to get a start provided free land for the individual if he would live on it for five years. If one of you did want to go into farming, you probably wouldn’t have any trouble finding the farm. The difficulty would be in financing it. We talk about free enterprise and America being the land of opportunity. We become dispirited when we accept this as truth and then when we take those steps to own our farm find that there is no opportunity at all, that there is no credit available. The same would be true for someone who wanted to go into small business. Every time the Federal Reserve Board raises interest rates 1 percent, in addition to fueling inflation it usually results in the loss of 1 million jobs. So to summarize s credit availability plus low interest rates will do more to buoy up the spirits of Americans than anything that this government could do from the standpoint of economics. dry election, but when it gets down to the AllUmerican Income Life Insurance Company DECEMBER 2,1977
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