Sunday’s letter to the editor “GOP policies make socialism attractive” asserted that GOP policies increase the attractiveness of socialism. Edward Filene, who sought to strengthen capitalism by making it a more equitable system, would agree.
Filene stimulated the development of credit unions. Together with the president of the University of Wisconsin, Glenn Frank, they chose Madison as the seat of what is today the World Council of Credit Unions. Credit unions were one of Filene’s reforms, and they became law under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. These reforms helped create the great American middle class and produced an unprecedented era of shared prosperity in America. This prosperity has declined since the 1970s as greed and corruption manipulated our democratic institutions.
Affordable loans for workers, a national retirement system for the elderly, trade union rights and a minimum wage were born out of the need to create and maintain a market with the purchasing power required by capitalism. Filene saw these reforms as an investment in building sustainable markets, and not as rights that destroy initiatives.
Since then, the GOP’s business interests and its catalysts have sought to weaken or eliminate every reform. Filene knew that capitalists can make capitalism fail. And so socialism becomes more attractive. It’s a lesson we’ve been forgetting in Wisconsin since 2010.