Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Will the Collapse of the Middle Class Bring About Democracy in America?

As the twenty-aughts gave way to the twenty-teens, it became readily apparent that the recovery from the Great Recession was not working its way throughout the entire population.  As was the case before the onset, the top 1% of revenue earners continued to take the lion's share of the nation's economic gains while the rest of the nation struggled to recoup their mounting losses.  Moreover, a college education, widely considered to be the gateway to the middle class, also became prohibitively expensive, thereby extinquishing the hope for a great many to live the American dream.
Related Posts

Essentially, many two-income families can no longer generate enough income to retain a semblance of a middle class lifestyle, especially those families where one of the breadwinners lost a job with health benefits and subsequently fell ill.  In short, the economic well-being of the majority of Americans has become far more precarious, and the American government, both at the state and federal level, has been unable to adequately respond to the plight of its ordinary citizens, choosing instead to support the principles of corporate wellfare.  For example, big banks and automobile companies were bailed out with public funds while millions of Americans who were left to fend for themselves lost their homes through foreclosure as a result of predatory lending practices.

For delusional optimists like myself, these turn of events could appear as the harbinger of a populist response in America that would take back political power from a corrupt political elite to redistribute it among the nation's citizens in order to form a goverment, in Lincoln's words of, by, and for the people.

Fat chance! 

Americans no longer have the ability to self-organize.  The march on Washington that gave Martin Luther King his captive audience for his famous, "I have a Dream" speech happened fifty years ago.  Now, the hordes mob the WallMarts in order to get the best deals on Black Friday, trampling to death any unfortunate employee that might get in their way.

As well, the meritocracy robs those would benefit from the democratization of America's political institutions of its potential leaders.  Moreover, the protestant ethos of people get what they deserve has been, for the most part, internalized by the population at large, including those, through no fault of their own, that were born into unfortunate circumstance.  Even the victims of social inequality blame themselves.

Finally, other than some folsky image of a New England town hall meeting and some warm fuzzy feelings linked to the republican ideals expressed by the founding fathers, most Americans cannot imagine what it would mean to take part in democratic governance.  They have been and will continue to be ruled by a plutocracy, and unless there is a severe external shock to the standing order, for instance, a collapse of the global economy or catastrophic climate change, things will move forward pretty much as they always have in what the American political class, read the top 1%, refers to as "the greatest nation on earth."

Americans wouldn't have it any other way.


  1. You might get your hands on a copy of Gar Alperovitz' "What Then Must We Do, Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution."

    He analyzes how North America had the middle class triumph of the postwar decades as founded on the Progressive movement of the early 20th century, the upheaval of the Great Depression and WWII, and the emergence out of the wartime labour shortages of a powerful union movement that empowered the broad-based middle class that spanned from manual labour to the professions.

    Reagan/Thatcher/Mulroney set into motion the wheels that dismembered organized labour and squeezed the middle class - downward - creating a chasm of inequality and the unearned transfer of wealth and political power to what Bush called, "my base - the Haves and the Have Mores."

    Alperovitz contends the next revolution will come through workers taking ownership of the means of production, an experiment that began in Ohio and is spreading to other states. It's a fascinating concept.

  2. My question is whether this could even begin to take place without the catstrophic collapse of the existing order? As well,hasn't the rise of suburbia, the commidification of dissent, and the pervasive presence of the infotainment sector -- Facebook and Twitter are the opiate of the masses -- neutered the vast majority of Americans, so much so that they would prefer to watch the revolution on HD TV?


All comments will be reviewed before posting. Civility is a must.