This just in: If the federal minimum wage had kept pace with Wall Street bonuses since 1985, the minimum wage would now be $33.51 per hour.

This is just another example of the rampant income inequality that’s destroying American society. Our life expectancy is shorter, our wages are stagnant, our infrastructure is crumbling (as anyone who has driven through Rockland knows), our oceans are warming at an alarming rate, Big Pharma is spreading opioid addiction and death, and the right tells us to blame immigrants for everything we don’t like about our lives. Maine’s economic forecast looks grim and there don’t seem to be any answers.

We’re like the frog in the pot of boiling water that fell in when it was still cool and didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late.

Living in beautiful Midcoast Maine, it’s easy to look away from our problems. What problems, you ask? According to the latest U.S. census figures, the median income in Rockland is $42,804 — $15,000 less than the national average. Meanwhile, 21 per cent of renters in Knox County pay half or more of their household income for rent. And there’s this: 40 percent to 57 percent of children in Knox and Lincoln county schools are eligible for free and reduced-price school lunches, and in some Waldo County schools eligibility reaches 85 percent.

It’s not that Mainers don’t want to work. According to the Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, nearly two-thirds of its clients held a job in the previous 12 months. They are the working poor who can no longer make ends meet with seasonal or minimum-wage jobs.

The water’s getting hotter in more ways than one. Not since the Gilded Age have we seen such rampant greed and distortion of what many of us believed were inherent American values: liberty and justice for all; all people created equal; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s worth noting that the last time things got this bad, people in the Midcoast stood up. The Grange, founded in 1873 after a panic crippled small farms, fought for women’s suffrage, better education, a curb on the power of railroads, and a graduated federal income tax, among other things. The Knights of Labor organized in Warren in 1886 and was strong in Rockland. The Populist Party of Maine was formed in 1891. The Socialist Party of Maine, formed in 1900, ran Norman Wallace Lermond of Thomaston for governor. According to Maine’s foremost labor historian, Charles A. Scontras, “Knox County (was a) nursery of reform movements … in the latter half of the 19th century.”

The vision of a better society offered by progressives, socialists, Marxists and all stripes in between has survived since the Gilded Age. We fought for voting rights, child labor laws, better working conditions and labor standards, the GI Bill, Medicare and Social Security, and environmental protection.

But look how easy it’s been to undo those achievements. Voting rights are threatened. Medicare and Social Security are under attack. Environmental regulations are being rolled back because they might affect the bottom line of major campaign contributors. The Supreme Court has decided that corporations are people and money is speech. Oh, and the earth’s atmosphere is being destroyed.

It’s time for a Green New Deal. We need to break the stranglehold of political and economic elites who now control almost every aspect of our lives. We need to restructure the things that aren’t working in our society, because Big Money has taken over our government, legal system, natural resources and other public goods. And then we can take back the obscene salaries and bonuses the rich give themselves, and the waste that the military industrial complex generates, and use that wealth for the common good. We have to stop listening to the lies about why we can’t have good schools, good health care, good jobs — things that only the rich can now afford.

In the coming weeks, my friends and colleagues will offer a range of Democratic Socialist perspectives about how these things can happen. We’ll write about the Green New Deal and other pressing issues. We’d like to hear from you at dsa.midcoastmaine@gmail.com.