The respondents to public opinion polls reveal what U.S. residents consider important policy issues. These range from the economy to health care and from education to Social Security. Democratic-

Republican-Independent responses vary according to issue category.

In 2019, economic gains continued to be concentrated among monied elites — whether the top 10% or even 0.01%. The gross national product grows, but it has not translated into better lives for millions of regular workers and their families. Improving the economy ranks as the top policy priority (70%) in a recent Pew Research Center poll.

Over the past roughly 40 years, the decline of labor unions, and of worker bargaining power in general, have taken a toll on our nation. It has contributed to many of the country’s major problems: increased income inequality, wage stagnation, declining mobility, the high number of low wage jobs, and the skewing of our politics in favor of large corporations and wealthy campaign donors.

Labor unions created a collective voice for millions of workers, gave them a decent standard of living, and contributed to the nation’s emergence as an economic powerhouse. The labor movement also took a leadership role in shaping working conditions like the eight-hour day, employer-backed health coverage, paid vacations and sick days and safe workplaces.

Despite extreme partisan posturing and presidential impeachment proceedings, Congress overwhelmingly enacted a law reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Every Kid Outdoors Act for seven years. Collectively this legislation, known as the Natural Resource Management Act, benefits thousands of parks, public lands, and waters as well as providing access to the outdoors to millions of fourth graders and their families. The fund protects parks, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas and historic sites at the federal, state and local levels.

Women made great gains in 2018, and the momentum continued through 2019 as the number of job-holding women reached unprecedented levels in the private and public sectors.

They are also speaking out about attacks on women’s legal rights, the slashing of essential health benefits, and the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault. Men with prestigious positions are increasingly being held accountable for using their power and privilege to denigrate and abuse women.

Thousands of females from all ages, ethnicities, religions and walks of life have surged into the political arena as candidates, campaign workers, fundraisers and lobbyists. Breaking the masculine imposed double-standard for women has also translated into new occupational opportunities, more responsibility and better pay. And some men have joined women in calling for equal rights across gender lines.

Recent polling also shows that clear majorities favor protecting LGBTQ people against discrimination. The Democratic-

led House of Representatives passed, on May 17, 2019, the Equality Act by a vote of 236-173, with every Democrat voting in favor, along with eight Republicans. The bill would amend existing civil rights law to include protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, including the specific areas of employment, public accommodations, transportation and retail/banking/legal services. The bill has garnered support from major corporations, business/manufacturing/trade associations and banking and financial institutions. But it faces opposition from most Republicans, the president, and the GOP-controlled Senate.

Judged by media coverage, two big stories emerged in 2019. One involved the millions of U.S. residents who continued the struggle for a decent standard of living. And the other involved the continuing struggle for justice among those who experienced gender identity discrimination. Activist supporters marched, picketed and held signs demanding greater economic and social justice.

Scharnau is retired from a history teaching career of some 50 years. His email address is LiberalRalph@gmail.com.