Bye-Bye, Miss American Pie . . . .

The middle class is going extinct, Truthseekers, and soon the American dream of ownership and prosperity for all will fade into a wispy memory.  This misdeeds of those we elected to represent us in Congress and the White House are partly to blame, but the nature of Capitalism itself has also contributed to the downfall of the middle class.

The wealthiest 1% in our nation control the lobbyists, who control our elected officials in DC.  The Koch brothers and their ilk manipulated politicians to enact the  bank deregulations that forced so many middle-class workers into the homeless shelters.  They weakened the unions that used to guarantee fair wages and worker’s rights.

Then there’s NAFTA, which ensured that the only thing American companies exported was thousands of American manufacturing jobs overseas.  With these jobs permanently “outsourced,” factories closed and entire cities (like Detroit) were left to crumble into dust.

Higher education, which used to promise a secure future, is no longer a guarantee as many college graduates who work at Starbucks or Walmart will attest.  And the current student loan disaster is a nightmare.  The NY Times had this to say last spring:

Real median family income growth has dropped 8 percent, and the number of full-time middle class jobs, 6 percent. The real net worth of the “bottom” 90 percent has dropped by one-fourth. The number of food stamp and disability aid recipients has more than doubled, to 59 million, about one in five Americans.

The Main Street economy is failing while Washington is piling a soaring debt burden on our descendants, unable to rein in either the warfare state or the welfare state or raise the taxes needed to pay the nation’s bills. By default, the Fed has resorted to a radical, uncharted spree of money printing. But the flood of liquidity, instead of spurring banks to lend and corporations to spend, has stayed trapped in the canyons of Wall Street, where it is inflating yet another unsustainable bubble.

When it bursts, there will be no new round of bailouts like the ones the banks got in 2008. Instead, America will descend into an era of zero-sum austerity and virulent political conflict, extinguishing even today’s feeble remnants of economic growth.

If this continues, any semblance of our once-admires system of representative democracy will become obsolete.

Edward McClelland has an excellent dissertation on this subject in Salon.

When I was growing up, it was assumed that America’s shared prosperity was the natural endpoint of our economy’s development, that capitalism had produced the workers paradise to which Communism unsuccessfully aspired.

Now, with the perspective of 40 years, it’s obvious that the nonstop economic expansion that lasted from the end of World War II to the Arab oil embargo of 1973 was a historical fluke, made possible by the fact that the United States was the only country to emerge from that war with its industrial capacity intact. Unfortunately, the middle class – especially the blue-collar middle class – is also starting to look like a fluke, an interlude between Gilded Ages that more closely reflects the way most societies structure themselves economically. For the majority of human history – and in the majority of countries today – there have been only two classes: aristocracy and peasantry. It’s an order in which the many toil for subsistence wages to provide luxuries for the few.

Twentieth century America temporarily escaped this stratification, but now, as statistics on economic inequality demonstrate, we’re slipping back in that direction. Between 1970 and today, the share of the nation’s income that went to the middle class – households earning two-thirds to double the national median – fell from 62 percent to 45 percent. Last year, the wealthiest 1 percent took in 19 percent of America’s income – their highest share since 1928. It’s as though the New Deal and the modern labor movement never happened.

There’s no chicken in everyone’s pot, and it’s not morning in America, either.  Feels more like permanent midnight is approaching.  With thousands of Americans driven into poverty each month, there is a moral imperative to stop this.  Sooner or later, we will all become the 99%


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This article has 3 comments

  1. Jesus H. Marx

    This is what former Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward Ryan had to say about the state of affairs in the USA:

    “There is looming up a new and dark power. … The accumulation of individual wealth seems to be greater than it ever has been since the downfall of the Roman Empire. And the enterprises of the country are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital, boldly marching, not for economic conquests only but for political power.”

    Incidentally, Justice Ryan said this in 1873.

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