This is the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first manned moon landing. It marked the greatest achievement yet of a burst of federal funding of science begun under President Dwight Eisenhower. The 50th year since college students from the north went to Mississippi for Freedom Summer. Fifty years ago the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. President Lyndon Johnson fought a war in Vietnam, misbegotten though it was, while declaring war in poverty. Soon, we will mark the half century since passage of the Voting Rights Act. In 1963, the Clean Air Act was approved, followed in 1972 by the Clean Water Act. In 1970, President Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce these laws.
What was the nation that did these things?
A few things stand out. It was a nation with the greatest middle class in history, the greatest industrial base the world had ever known, which made things — often with union hands, and even when not benefiting from the advances for working people ensured by organized labor. That nation believed in science and progress. It was run by two mass political parties encompassing conservatives, liberals and centrists. Taxes were high on the rich and progressive. Productivity was widely shared.
That nation is gone.