DIVERGENCE OF
THE RICH
FROM THE POOR

Written By
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 percent.

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 these millions.

Astonishingly, 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."[1]

  1. Please see "Who Speaks for the Middle Class" by Jack Beatty in the Atlantic Monthly, May, 1994, pg. 65.

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