yet more on the deconstruction of the American worker’s family

Es­ti­mated reading time is 5 min­utes.

ABOUT OUR MIDDLE CLASS. An ed­i­to­rial by David Leon­hardt and Kevin Quealy for The Up­shot page of yes­ter­day’s New York Times (April 22, 2014) is ti­tled “The Amer­ican Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest.” The opening para­graph is a single sen­tence: “The Amer­ican middle class, long the most af­fluent in the world, has lost that distinction.”


Who’d a thunk?!?

We have had more than thirty years of the ef­fects of Reagan-inspired, Republican-led and -en­forced “supply-side eco­nomics,” which ar­gues that “eco­nomic growth can be most ef­fec­tively cre­ated by low­ering bar­riers for people to pro­duce goods and ser­vices as well as in­vest in capital.”

Or its kissin’ cousin, “trickle-down eco­nomics,” which en­com­passes the idea that “tax breaks or other eco­nomic ben­e­fits pro­vided to busi­nesses and upper-income levels will ben­efit poorer mem­bers of so­ciety by im­proving the economy as a whole.”

I prefer the term that then moderate—and let’s never forget, compassionate—conservative George H. Bush’s re­ferred to his op­po­nent’s (Ronald Reagan) economic/fiscal the­o­ries and pro­posed poli­cies in the 1980 Re­pub­lican pres­i­den­tial pri­maries: “voodoo eco­nomics.” Back to Leon­hardt and Quealey:

“While the wealth­iest Amer­i­cans are out­pacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, cit­i­zens of other ad­vanced coun­tries have re­ceived con­sid­er­ably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class in­comes in Canada—substantially be­hind [the US] in 2000—now ap­pear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Eu­rope earn more than poor Americans.

The strug­gles of the poor in the United States are even starker than those of the middle class. A family at the 20th per­centile of the in­come dis­tri­b­u­tion in this country makes sig­nif­i­cantly less money than a sim­ilar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Fin­land, or the Nether­lands. Thirty-five years ago, the re­verse was true.

The poor in the United States have trailed their coun­ter­parts in at least a few other coun­tries since the early 1980s. With slow in­come growth since then, the Amer­ican poor now clearly trail the poor in sev­eral other rich countries.

At the 20th percentile—where someone is making less than four-fifths of the population—income in both the Nether­lands and Canada was 15% higher than in­come in the United States in 2010.

By con­trast, Amer­i­cans at the 95th per­centile of the distribution—with $58,600 in after-tax per capita in­come, not in­cluding cap­ital gains—still make 20% more than their coun­ter­parts in Canada, 26% more than those in Britain, and 50% more than those in the Nether­lands. For these well-off fam­i­lies, the United States still has easily the world’s most pros­perous major economy.”

And so it is that the moss­backed ed­i­to­ri­al­ists, colum­nists, talk-show hosts, and re­lated pun­dits for the major/mainstream media—that damn lib­eral media!—are FINALLY be­gin­ning to pay at­ten­tion to what has been ob­vious to many of us for those thirty odd years!

And what are they FINALLY paying at­ten­tion to?

We Amer­i­cans who work for a living are get­ting screwed!

(I’d say “f*cked” but I be­lieve that I could be over­doing it, given the three other posts con­cerning that four-letter word that will ap­pear on this site.)

And by whom are we being screwed? Well, ac­tively by al­most every elected Re­pub­lican in the country, all of whom sup­port one or all of the “pil­lars” of Reaganomics.

And pas­sively by more De­moc­rats than is ac­cept­able for a party de­pen­dent upon blue-collar workers and what’s left of their busted unions and who are sit­ting back and al­lowing these things to happen.

Any dic­tator would ad­mire the uni­for­mity and obe­di­ence of the [Amer­ican] media.– Noam Chomsky

A progressive response

This was fol­lowed by an ed­i­to­rial on the Cam­paign for Amer­i­ca’s Fu­ture web­site ti­tled “As Middle Class Falls Be­hind, We Need A Pro­gres­sive Pop­ulist Re­sponse” by that site’s ad­min­is­tra­tors (April 23, 2014).

“There is new ev­i­dence of the high price [that] working-class people are paying be­cause of the stran­gle­hold con­ser­v­a­tives have on our economy that should em­bolden De­mo­c­ratic can­di­dates to offer bolder, pro­gres­sive pop­ulist pre­scrip­tions for ad­dressing in­come in­equality and re­making our economy.

The head­line of the ar­ticle on middle-class for­tunes pub­lished in The New York Times on Tuesday could hardly have been more stark. The un­der­lying facts are by now fa­miliar: in­comes of the top 5% have sky­rock­eted in the past three decades, re­flecting the dis­pro­por­tionate share of na­tional wealth that has moved from working people to the own­er­ship class.

What we may not be used to hearing is the con­clu­sion by au­thors David Leon­hardt and Kevin Quealy that ‘the Amer­ican middle class, long the most af­fluent in the world, has lost that distinction.’

These are the con­se­quences of de­lib­erate eco­nomic de­ci­sions over the past three decades made by con­ser­v­a­tives when they had con­trol of the levers of power and fiercely de­fended against ef­forts by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­verse them.

Even after six years of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in the White House and seven years of De­mo­c­ratic con­trol of the Senate, tax poli­cies are still in place that en­able the highest in­come earners to have lower income-tax rates than many middle-class families.”

Fi­nally, for those FOREVER sit­ting on the fence (while your world comes tum­bling on down around you), who do not be­lieve that there is ANY dif­fer­ence be­tween the two major par­ties (de­spite the fact that the De­moc­rats passed un­em­ploy­ment com­pen­sa­tion, the 40-hour work week with its at­ten­dant over­time pay, So­cial Se­cu­rity, Medicare, Med­icaid, ad in­finitum, against the ve­he­ment op­po­si­tion of the Re­pub­li­cans EVERY time), who mis­tak­enly be­lieve that every­thing is a matter of opinion and prej­u­diced per­spec­tive (de­spite the ev­i­dence of more than one hun­dred years of history).

The rascal mul­ti­tude are the proper tar­gets of the mass media and a public ed­u­ca­tion system geared to obe­di­ence and training in needed skills, in­cluding the skill of re­peating pa­tri­otic slo­gans on timely oc­ca­sions.– Noam Chomsky

At a loss for words?

Many years ago (I forget the year, but I would guess the 1990s), lin­guist philoso­pher sci­en­tist ac­tivist lec­turer Noam Chomsky made a fact-finding trip to South America (I forget the country, but I would guess Brazil) to study how the im­pov­er­ished city-dwellers were com­mu­ni­cating and or­ga­nizing politically.

He came back and did an in­ter­view with an al­ter­na­tive news-based mag­a­zine (I would guess it was “Z” mag­a­zine), in which he was ob­vi­ously en­thused and im­pressed by what he had seen. The lo­cals, al­most uni­formly “un­e­d­u­cated” peas­ants, were po­lit­i­cally aware, as­tute, ar­tic­u­late, and ac­tive—every­thing that the av­erage “ed­u­cated” Amer­ican was not!

The final ques­tion from the in­ter­viewer was (and I am para­phrasing), “Why do Amer­i­cans con­sis­tently vote against their own best interests?”

And Mr. Chomsky—a man who has given many in­ter­views and who is NEVER at a loss for words—answered, “I don’t know . . .”


Mossbacks: photo of the Cash family from the movie CAPTAIN FANTASTIC.

FEATURED IMAGE: The free-minded, free-spirited, free­wheelin’ Cash family and family cel­e­brate anti-capitalistic Noam Chomsky Day in the movie Cap­tain Fantastic




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