Reviews & Comments
Reading, PAReading realities
Having lived in Reading in the 1960's and early 1970's I can definitely say the city has gone downhill as it has in reality been a victim of two major forces; first globalization and the second has been the general decline of morality. In the late 1960's Reading was loaded with manufacturing plants that hired and trained semi-skilled laborers and production workers. Although many of the jobs did not pay large wages, it was enough to buy a row home, pay for health insurance, a car and raise a family. Wives really did not have to work as the husband would make enough to support a family working on 40 hours a week. The city blocks had corner stores and small bars where the guys could get together and have a drink. The neighbor hood schools were absolutely first rate with a strong bond between the teachers and parents. The end result was the neighborhood wages ended up circulating within the neighborhood allowing people to live good lives, walk the safe streets, go to church and enjoy the city parks, museums and attractions. Fast forward 45 years or so and the story has changed as the US Congress passed specific legislation, most notably NAFTA, which provided the legal framework to export the US manufacturing base to the third world. Since then about 12 million manufacturing jobs have been exports and 10's of thousand of manufacturing entities have packed up and moved out. This has literally gutted the solid working class neighborhoods across America and it has especially hit cities like Reading. NAFTA was really a scheme to sell the public on an global economic reorganization which totally favors the multi-national corporations and the global bankers and it helps to hold down the inflation rate in America which allows Congress to keep spending money that does not exist i.e. deficit spending, so that they can essentially 'buy votes' via spending money on projects for special interest groups who in turn donate money to Congressional re-election campaigns. In other words Reading, PA was essentially sold out by the Pennsylvania politicians who approved of NAFTA! Hence in Reading there has been an exodus of companies with good paying jobs which in turn has led to an economic decline. With regards to the second point or morality, back in the 1960's and early 1970's Reading was blessed with a strong moral belief amongst its residents. Both parents and teachers had the same moral foundation which was vigorously enforced along with the law enforcement. The 'new morality' for lack of a better term has been drug, booze, pleasure and sex seeking. Although these forces were alive in the 1960's they were kept in check by television morality standards and societal rules in general. Abdication of these moral checks in the early 1970's literally unleashed a pandora's box of societal problems; single parenthood, welfare, drug problems, directionless youth, crime recidivism, 'me generation' etc…. There is no neighborhood or municipality that can withstand unemployment with its corresponding poverty unless it has a strong moral foundation and a strong work ethic that can overcome the income dislocation through the loss of jobs. In addition some of the welfare offices in New Jersey actually put up signs recommending that recipients move to Reading, PA!!!! A teacher friend of mine actually drove over to New Jersey to confirm if this was just a rumor and he discovered it was indeed true. Essentially Reading received a double sucker punch by its politicians who first of all decided to remove the moral safeguards in place through legislative decisions and secondly the politicians voted to export the nation's industrial base to the third world and in turn IMPORT the third world's poverty classes. But what should be noted is that the real catalyst that harbored the decline of Reading, PA was President Lyndon Johnson's decision to lie to the public and get America involved with the Vietnam War. Johnson decided to pursue a mad spending agenda through welfare and warfare-the old guns versus butter argument. Reading, PA suffered the agony of many of its young men dying in a fruitless war. Johnson figured he send Reading's sons to whip the commies back and then he would be a presidential war hero all set for a landslide re-election victory in 1968. Johnson's decision ended up getting the inflation roller coaster riding and set the stage for the later successive waves of economic problems that have beset the country. Whether Reading can make a come back or not is an open question. So rather than just saying the city sucks or something of that nature, I would rather affirm that Reading was the place to be in the 1960's and early 1970's and that it is in an ideal geographic location. But for the city to make a real turn around it will need to recapture its manufacturing base and replace non moral residents with moral ones.