FROM THE POOR
S. R. Shearer
Many years ago, German political economist Werner Sombart wrote that
radical ideologies (fascism, communism, etc.) were doomed to founder
in the United States upon the rocks of "roast beef and apple pie,"
a metaphor for America's wealthy and ever-expanding middle class. But
something happened in the interim to Middle America which has not only
stopped its expansion, but has threatened its wealth. Somewhere around
1973 the economic floor it stood on started to give way. Jack Beatty,
writing in the Atlantic Monthly, reports that between 1974 and 1989
workers with less than a high school education saw their wages fall
by 21.7 percent, and high school graduates saw their's fall by 14.7
Lester Thurow reports the same thing: he writes that from 1973 to
1992 average wages for the bottom 60 percent of male workers fell 20
percent. Thurow goes on to report that the problem of falling wages
is particularly desperate for younger workers aged eighteen to twenty-four
where the percentage of those working full time at a poverty level income
increased from 29 percent to 48 percent.
Ralph Whitehead agrees. He says that the notion of an "ever expanding
middle class" has yielded to the "diverging middle class,"
with blue-collar, clerical and technical workers falling out of the
middle class into the ranks of the working poor - the approximately
56 million Americans with incomes insufficient to cover basic necessities.
And, according to John Schwarz, increasing numbers of Americans are
only a "firing" or "restructuring" away from joining
however, during the same period a new globalist yuppie class of Americans
has devloped where a great many have achieved millionaire status. Beatty
reports that this class is expanding at the astronomical rate of 2,184
percent a year. The pattern is becoming clear: the United States is
reshaping itself in the image of Latin America.
Beatty writes concerning this phenomenon, "The crisis of the
middle class is of commanding gravity. Nothing else - not national security
... not crime, not the environment, not education ... comes close."
Why? "Because the crisis breaks what Herbert Croly called 'the
promise of American life', and that is bound to be prolific of adverse
consequences ... The America of the expanding middle class had a centrist,
two-party ... (political system). The America of the diverging middle
class is ... populist, anti-political, programmatically inchoate, hostile
to ... (moderation), and profoundly cynical about government."
"If stability was the hallmark of the first kind of politics,
instability may be that of the second."
- Please see "Who Speaks for the Middle Class" by Jack Beatty
in the Atlantic Monthly, May, 1994, pg. 65.
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