RIP: The American Middle Class: 1944-2011

“Everythings fucked up and no one goes to jail…”
I was reading a really depressing piece about the continued fallout from the financialand mortgage crisis by Matt Taibbi entitled, “Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?” the other night. It confirmed some of my worst imaginings and made me wonder if I was going to see the death of the American middle class in my lifetime.

Nobody goes to jail. This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth — and nobody went to jail. Nobody, that is, except Bernie Madoff, a flamboyant and pathological celebrity con artist, whose victims happened to be other rich and famous people.

The more I learn of what happened and how, the more angry and helpless feeling I get. Insult is added to injury since, after the Obama election, Obama supporters (like myself) had hoped to see a change in Washington; instead we have gotten more of the same. The financial criminals get rewarded while people who engage in ‘poor person crimes’ (like prostitution, drugs, etc.,) continue to fill the jails beyond capacity. Somehow, this story of a woman who collapsed and died at her desk in her cubicle and no one noticed until the next day seems the appropriate bookend for that tale. Has our brand of capitalism degenerated into a form of indentured servitude? We already have workers who live in mortal fear of termination or layoff because of their dependance upon their employer for health care benefits. How many employees would love to use the capitalist system to their own advantage by entertaining offers from another employer but dare not because this would require they enroll in a new health care plan and the pre-existing conditions suffered by themselves or a family member would not be covered? Despite gains in the market and in corporate valuation, salaries contine to remain flat and unemployment rates contine at near-recession levels. There has been a recovery, but this rising tide has not lifted all boats… or maybe that metaphor no longer works because it becomes obvious to me that in this economy, not everyone HAS a boat.

If that were not enough, despite the fact that the money taps had never stopped flowing for the top 10% and their lackeys, the ‘deficit disease’ continues to infect the minds of Americans. The revenues are out there, if the people in Washington had the balls to collect them, but our leaders and media pundits continue to use the financial crisis as a reason to put public assistance programs and the salaries and benefits of state workers on the chopping block. Perhaps emboldened by the way in which GM and other manufacturers managed to kick the stuffing out of unions during their own financial meltdown and come out smelling like a rose on the other side with shareholder’s dividends and CEO salaries intact, Wisonsin legislators are now using the “financil crisis” as en excuse to try to place a foot on the neck of their public service employees and hack away at the benefits (financial and otherwise) associated with public service jobs in their state; watch and wait as other states follow that lead. Why is it that Americans worship billionaires and suck up to millionaires but hate anyone making less than 50k a year to the point that salary caps, wage freezes, benefit cuts and pension gutting for the poor and middle class are always ‘necessary’ but any suggestion that the super-rich should pay a dime more than the have-nots in taxes is met with outraged cries of “communist wealth redistribution” or viewed as an affront to capitalism, freedom and our mother’s love?

17 Comments on “RIP: The American Middle Class: 1944-2011”

  1. Grendelwulf says:

    Quit your bleeding heart cryin'.

    Everyone knows the richest 1% in this country WORKED for every dime they made. They earned it.

    If the 99% weren't so damn lazy and cryin' for handouts all of the time, maybe they could make the system work for them. But they don't want to. Waaaah!

    The Middle Class has been dead, and they walked up and put their own head on the chopping block. They bought into worshiping the 1%, as you've said, and now they reap the rewards of their ignorance.

    What are they going to do? Revolt? Rise up and demand their government set things right? No, of course not. They all believe they can't do anything about it. They'd rather attck each other over race, poverty, and every stupid little distraction the 1% throws at us while they sit back and get richer.

    Death to America, they say? We're already dead, only no has had the decency to bury the corpse.

  2. +1 to Wisconsin right now.

    They're trying to pass a similar bill here in Arizona but what else would you expect for a state headed by Jan Brewer, a white supremacist Mormon and the private prison industry.

  3. I'm almost 33 and I know that I will never be able to retire. The only consolation — and it's not a warm, cuddly one, alas — is that this too shall pass. In sixty years or less I will die, and all the world's problems, including my own, will pass on like dream-figments. The older I get, the less sad that seems.

  4. JDJarvis says:

    The middle class ain't what it used to be but it isn't dead just yet. The Republicans and Democrats haven't managed to destroy it (and the country) just yet.

  5. Badmike says:

    I'm always surprised when people are surprised that virtually nothing has changed under Obama. He was a part of and elected by the most notoriously crooked politics black hole in America, the Chicago Machine, which makes the Bush Dynasty look, well, bush league (40+ years and counting for the Daleys in their fiefdom). It obviously behooves him not to rock the boat too much or face the wrath of his creators, the same financial entities that put him into office.

  6. limpey says:

    Maybe it is naive of me, but I do want to believe that things can be better. In just 2 generations, America managed to create an affluent and politically powerful middle classes — and now those making less than 100k a year are perpetually on the ropes. What seems amazingly short sighted (at least to me) is that the US economy has grown precisely because of the buying power of the middle class. We can talk about 'wealth creation' all we want, but unless those growing markets in China and India can replace the American consumer, how will the ultra-rich maintain their fantabulous rate of growth? And what good is it being an mega-gazillionaire if you can never leave your gilded compound for fear that the starving masses will kill your guards an hurl themselves on you and tear you limb from well tanned limb in order to feast on your corpse?
    Badmike: I am surprised simply because the democrats had a chance to change the balance of power in their own favor for years after gaining the Whitehouse and they blew it. I'm always surprised when someone is handed an opportunity on a silver platter and they manage to fuck it up.

  7. Trey says:

    I agree, but of course, being a state employee I'm one of those faceless representatives of evil and my opinion doesn't count for much.

  8. At least with an Aristocracy, it is made clear that you are fucked down there on the bottom rung and have no real chance of moving up. Our system gives those poor bastards at the bottom hope.

  9. migellito says:

    Nah Trey, like Limpey says above, state employees are some of the people being crapped on. I remember when I had a state job and people would say “ooh, you get great benefits” and I would explain to them what I got.. which every time turned out to be worse than their plans.

  10. yeah, its all on purpose and possibly worse than you think. it turns out, the people running things are actually dark cultists (look up 'bohemian grove') we just need our own sorcery. i wasnt born in this country but i dont belong anywhere else so im a proud American and a patriot. i believe in the supposed principles of the founding of this nation if not the execution. we are good people and based on my contact with foreigners i dont think we have been successfully demonized. i sometimes worry about being cursed by dead indians though.


    secret societies' beliefs should provide inspiration for d&d 🙂

  11. sorry if there are gaps in my reasoning. its easy to fill them in in your head while nobody else knows wtf you are talking about.

  12. migellito says:

    Actually, I think I know what's going on. We're seeing the results of the Hellfire Club finally beating the XMen.

    It's all because they brought back Jean Grey.

  13. JB says:

    @ Aplus (and Limpey):

    My life is a pretty good one, and if I just worked at being a good person myself, thing would still be mostly fine and dandy. Sure I'd have to tighten my belt some (as a state employee in Washington State), but I'd get by. And I'm privileged to be a white male with a college degree.

    That doesn't give me a justification for burying my head in the ground. That doesn't give me an excuse to keep my indignation bottled inside me. ESPECIALLY if I have an audience (blog or otherwise), I have a responsibility to occasionally come and say SOMEthing…one shouldn't take their own blessings as a sign that they don't need to give back!

    Good work, Limp.
    : )

  14. Jim says:

    Kudos. As a teacher, I'm closely following the WI situation. If that situation goes south, I'm looking forward to a nationwide sick-in.

    The Gov of WI is apparently allowing police and fire to keep their collective bargaining rights, but teachers? Nope. Not important enough. Public safety is important; public education isn't.

    I'm personally sick and tired with being beat up for caring about kids. “If teachers cared about kids, they wouldn't call in sick” Bullshit. If you cared about kids, you wouldn't kick teachers around.

    Apparently, teachers are supposed to do the hard work of educating the next generation and that 40k salary is just too much to be paid for the privilege. Maybe we can ask Wal-Mart to start a Wal-School chain of charter schools and all our kids can go and be edumacated by $9/hour flunkies. That's the America I want to live in.

  15. limpey says:

    Jim said, “The Gov of WI is apparently allowing police and fire to keep their collective bargaining rights…
    I think Governor Walker is allowing police and firefighters to keep their rights for now… after all, he needs the State Trooper's help in trying to force the dissenting State reps back to Madison. If the police and firefighters think that Walker won't go after them next if he is successful against the teachers and other workers, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell them.

  16. ckutalik says:

    It's starting to look like WI may be the turning point at least in terms of popular fightback. Well at least we all are not going quietly into that dark night.

  17. kelvingreen says:

    Maybe we can ask Wal-Mart to start a Wal-School chain of charter schools and all our kids can go and be edumacated by $9/hour flunkies. That's the America I want to live in.

    It's the Britain I'm going to be living in in the next few years, I suspect.

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