Friday, December 11, 2015

Goodbye, Middle Class. Hello, Fear

In 1971, two-thirds of Americans lived in middle class households. Today, only half do. And their numbers keep dwindling.

Until very recently the vast majority of US citizens, no matter how unemployed, underemployed, and struggling they were, still considered themselves a part of the middle class. That fantasy is rapidly losing the magic perpetuated by political propaganda. Cold, hard reality is finally beginning to set in. More and more of us are willing to admit that not only are we dirt-poor, we are getting nowhere fast. 

In the same week that the Pew Research Center issued its stunning report chronicling the death of the middle class comes a new New York Times/CBS poll revealing that those refugees from the middle class are scared to death...of another terrorist attack. It is so much easier to be fearful of the Enemy Outside than of the Enemy Within, especially when the telephoning pollsters limit the questions to ISIS terrorism, and ignore economic terrorism. It is so much easier to turn to billionaire success story Donald Trump after watching nonstop doomsday terror coverage on CNN than it is to vainly scour the mainstream news for information on the sane, liberal solutions of Bernie Sanders. It's so much easier to blame "those Muslims" and "those illegals" for our woes than it is to blame the predatory plutocrats hiding in their boardrooms and their gated communities.

The poll also shows that attitudes toward gun control are shifting. "Only 44 percent of Americans favor a ban on assault weapons, 19 percentage points lower than after the mass shooting in Tucson in 2011," reports the Times. "And while 51 percent favor stricter gun control in general, that is down from 58 percent in October."

The harder and faster we fall from the middle class, the more weaponized we seem to get.


In his "Empowering the Ugliness" column today, Paul Krugman explores the similarities and differences between the rise of right-wing extremism in Europe (LePen) and the United States (Trump and the GOP). The European elites, he writes, have tried to freeze out the Right, while here in the U.S. the Right is embraced by the elites. He traces the American roots of extremism to Nixon's Southern Strategy, which is correct insofar as it goes.

 But then Krugman goes on to timidly tiptoe around the neoliberal mantra of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, avoiding how their project spawned decades of unfettered capitalism, and how it morphed into Clintonism, Bushism, and Obamaism. Austerity dictated by financialized capitalism has intensified, if not created, Western xenophobia. Maybe it's because neoliberalism has always been a bipartisan (deregulation, corporate coups known as "free trade") thing in this country, and Krugman must limit himself to searching across the pond and shooting GOP fish in a barrel during election season. He writes, "Even admirers and supporters of the European project (like me) have to admit that it has never had deep popular support or a lot of democratic legitimacy. It is, instead, an elite project sold largely on the claim that there is no alternative, (my bold) that it is the path of wisdom."

(Well, at least he smarmily admits that he admires neoliberal elitism.)

My published response: 
"There is no alternative" (TINA) was actually said by Margaret Thatcher as she and Reagan launched their global Neoliberal Project in the 80s. This project is governance of, by, and for high finance. When turbo-charged capital driven by a small group of plutocrats is allowed to speed across borders without any brakes, humanity and public institutions are left crushed and gasping in its wake.
Clinton and Blair added the sweetness of "social responsibility" to the free trade gas. Bush's wars of aggression and tax cuts for the rich were the toxic additives.

Trump, consummate entertainer and manipulator that he is, is TINA's end-product. Forsaking the dog whistle, he belches out the xenophobia that's been churning in the American gut for decades, if not centuries The only shocking thing about the Donald Trump Experience is that the elites of the media/political/military complex are shocked by it at all. After all, they created this monster.

Besides the Trump ugliness, there's the ugliness of what the Pope aptly calls a piecemeal World War III. There's the whitewash of the US bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital, and the cover-ups of racist police murders in Chicago and elsewhere. There's paranoid spying on citizens, mass incarceration, and an epidemic of gun violence. Wealth inequality spawned by TINA has reached such grotesque proportions that the middle class is no longer the majority.

It's ugly and it's cold and it's cruel out here. So let's Feel the Bern.

1 comment:

Ken Wallace said...

Another bonus of "The Unwinding" (George Packer) is reported shorter life spans for the working poor and remnants of the middle class. This should help those fretting over social security funding - the final solution if you will.

The single most important need at this point is to get Bernie Sanders nominated. Only he has the integrity and honesty to wake the masses in this age of confusion, and that will take a stick of dynamite.