The Great Recession of 2007 blindsided middle-class Americans. They lost 40% of their wealth and millions of jobs. While some have returned to work, many of these folks will never recover their wealth. At the same time, big corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in cash, and wealthy executives are cashing in on the skyrocketing profits.
What is shocking about this is that there is nothing on the horizon to stop the downward
economic trend of middle-class American families. In fact, many social and political indicators
spell outright doom for the middleclass. Let me explain.
● The Middleclass has No Shared Vision.
A recent PEW Poll showed that the middleclass is bitterly divided against itself. One-half of all American adults support fairness and compromise in order to achieve common goals. The other half of Americans have a winner-take-all attitude and put their personal entitlements first. They believe there is a virtue in never compromising on political and social issues. This has led L.A. Times commentator Meghan Daum to surmise that the creed of individualism for anti-government Americans is simply narcissistic self-obsession.
● The Anti-Government Political Movement Works Against the Middle Class.
The anti-government movement started in the 1990s with Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich. It was backed by the billionaire political genius David Koch and partisan operative Karl Rove. It spread to Fox News and then to a large segment of the American public through the Tea Party. The extremes of this anti-government movement can be seen everywhere, as when public figure Pat Nugent called for the killing of the president. Because of the anti-government movement’s intrusion into state and federal budget decisions, 600,000 government workers have lost their jobs in the last 4 years—that includes teachers, firefighters, police officers, transportation employees, and, most recently, post office workers.
● Hatred Has Become a Family Value.
Those who espouse winner-take-all tactics honor the wealthy. Many imagine they will somehow make a quick claim to greatness, too. And some of these folks have learned that it’s okay to hate people who believe in fairness and compromise. They believe that the driving force in capitalism is inequity, and that is what forces billionaires work so hard for their cash. Public hatred is now so common that many people tune into Fox and Friends or Sean Hannity in order to learn who to despise. This further divides the middle class against itself.
● Big Business and Billionaires Run the Country.
In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that billionaires can buy elections by spending millions of dollars if they so choose. They can do this in secret and run attack ads that outright lie. That made swiftboating totally legal. Now a wealthy individual can hire people to lie about a candidate who does not support his or her objectives. This has made it possible for billionaires to dictate to politicians. The deal is: If you do not give my corporation a handout, you will not be reelected. Few political offices in the Unites States are immune from this. There are actually 2,200 state legislators who have joined ALEC, a corporate political action group, to learn what the billionaires want. As a result, billionaire Super PACs and anti-government interests groups write legislation and hand it off to lobbyists, who give it to legislators for enactment. A priority for these groups is to block government expenditures on common people and the middle class.
● The End of Union Labor.
The 2012 recall election in Wisconsin was won by billionaires who outspent the Democratic candidate 30-to-1. That battle was about ending union wages in the state. That gambit worked so well that it will be used in every state in the nation until the final anti-labor battle takes place.
● The Demise of Employer-Provided Health Insurance.
The 2010 Affordable Care Act delivered subsidizes for small businesses to buy health insurance for their employees. It supported private health insurance companies and set into place a way for all Americans to buy a policy. But with that getting kicked out, 50 million Americans will be going back to the emergency rooms for their primary healthcare. Republican leaders, with winner-take- all attitudes, have no intention of changing this in the next Congress. As the director of the American Public Health Association, Georges Benjamin, M.D. said, “I have no confidence that Congress will … adequately fund the public health system” after the Supreme Court throws out the Affordable Care Act.
● Nobody Cares About the Small Business Owner.
Small businesses are set to go the way of the Mom & Pop store. With billionaires dictating to Congress and the state legislatures, there is no place for the concerns of small business people to be heard. Hence, there will not be enough loan money to help them expand. The giant banks would rather participate in humungous hedge-fund gambles—that pay billions to bank executives—than mess with bit players. Small businesses that remain afloat will do so with minimum wages and by the owners working 80 hour weeks.
● Unemployment is a Permanent Feature of the New Economy.
70% of Americans say they would do their jobs for less money rather than be laid off. These workers have already ramped up their productivity just to prove their value, hoping they won’t be canned. These middle-class workers know that if they lose their jobs there may never be another one for them. After all, employers already terminate the positions of older workers and hire young people who work for less. The Senate Republicans have filibustered time and time again to stop bills that would increase employment. The House Republicans won’t even allow votes on job-creating bills. The idea is that if you keep unemployment high wages will remain low.
● The End of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
The Republican Congressional budget for 2013 put forth an outline to end Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has endorsed that budget and the privatization of these programs. What that means is handing the money over to Wall Street buyout firms and hedge fund, along with health insurance giants, like HCL. This will eventually lead to homelessness among the elderly.
● Fox News and the War on the Universities.
According to Fox, most all universities, except bible schools, are hot beds of socialism. Greatness, like that of John Hopkins, is chided, even while it is the most prestigious medical
research university in the world. The number one public university, the University of California, Berkeley, is also chided. Yet UCB supervises all the U.S. government nuclear laboratories and weapons facilities. For Fox, that just means the socialists are endangering the nation’s weapon’s industry. Overall, the object of the Fox attack is to put an end to middleclass kids going to college. The issue here is that only wealthy kids have the right values and should therefore be allowed to go to school.
● War-Making is the Only Industrial Policy.
An industrial policy is where government policy favors select industries that can advance a nation’s global competitive advantage. For instance, Japan gave preferential treatment to shipbuilding and car manufacturing and became the world leader. The U.S., in contrast, has only one thing Congress and the people can agree on—war-making. So the U.S. developed the gigantic military plane, the C-17 Globemaster. At the same time, via industrial policy, Europe delivered the Airbus A-380, the largest passenger plane. Meanwhile, China has invested in marine ports in 30 countries in order to increase its trade. The U.S. Congress cannot authorize support for these sorts of civilian projects because it would be considered socialism. In essence, the phony concept of socialism has destroyed the U.S. trading future, and along with it, tens of millions of middle-class jobs.
It would be very hard for the middle class to win against these forces that are leading to its
demise. Middleclass people are hopelessly divided against each other, and many government-haters seem to thrive on the conflict. That’s because when you hate, you can blame someone else for your problems. Making matters worse, the Republican Party has made every effort to encourage that hatred. It brings in the votes.
Meanwhile, Democrats argue for fairness and compromise, but that’s about it. They seem
to be too wimpish to really get down into the thick of things and fight for the survival of the
middle class. Bold moves are simply out of the question for them and their president, Mr. Obama. He offers them no compelling reason to vote, unless, one more time, you think there is some remaining grounds for having hope.