Workers and farmers in the Gilded Age - Essay Example

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The essay below addresses the hypothetical Essential Question: Why did the Populists believe that the United States was on “the verge of moral, political, and material ruin?” Were they right?…
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Workers and farmers in the Gilded Age
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"Workers and farmers in the Gilded Age"

Coming from a civil war, which pulled the American economy through major recessions and poor performance, all sectors, including the private and public, faced major growth and development. Technological advancement introduced a range of new products in the market, changing the lifestyles of the middle-class Americans. Further, there was a significant growth in the American population, creating ready market for manufactured goods and agricultural products. The government embarked on an aggressive plan to develop the transportation sector, moving goods to far places, increasing markets for American goods. As the sectors expanded, so did their purchasing power, increase in the level of disposable income and advancement in their living conditions. Economic advancement, coupled with growth and increase in wealth almost put the American society at the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. As economy progressively grew, the society lost sense of morals. There was little or no concern for worker’s welfare. During the final two decades of the 19th century, the United States had one of the highest industrial accident rates in the Western industrial world. “Despite these daunting conditions, there existed no government-mandated compensation for injuries sustained on the job, no old age pensions, no unemployment compensation, no occupational safety regulations, and no limitations on working hours” (Mooney, 39). ...
Amid the increased issues facing the rich and the working class, the rich and political class devised ways of beating the system, with increased levels of corruption and worker intimidation. Even the courts themselves were no refuge for the affected workers. Worker strikes characterized the period. Despite the ever-increasing profits from the business, wages and salaries remained low. Some of the employers, full of intimidation, and oblivious of the fact that no legal action would be taken against them, resulted to deducting salaries for the loudest workers. Thus, there was a wide spread industrial unrest, with worker frequent worker strikes. In its 1895 In Re Debs decision, for example, the Court declared judges could use injunctions to halt strikes or work stoppages (Mooney, 41). Despite the low wages and salaries, workers, being the majority poor kept suffering. Commodity prices kept rising, with producers raising prices at their own will. According to Populist Party, “1892 Platform”, the newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled, public opinion silenced, business prostrated, homes covered with mortgages, labor impoverished, and the land concentrating in the hands of capitalists. Lears, in the book, “The Gilded Age” pointed out, “men like Andrew Carnegie and J.D. Rockefeller could carve up markets and charge whatever prices they wanted. When workers and farmers complained that high prices were ruining them, the Republican Congress responded in 1890 by raising rates even higher.” Government instructions appeared functionless. As no market forces controlled commodity prices, producers had their way, rising prices at will. In fact, the workers worked harder than ever, but they still could not survive because of the prices kept Read More
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