The Middle Class: How We Got One and Why We Need to Keep it

Discussion in 'Education' started by Bfgrn, Aug 15, 2010.

  1. Bfgrn
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    Bfgrn Gold Member

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    For Americans, being middle class is part of our national ethos. People who, based on income level are poor, rich or middle class view themselves, and are usually identified by others, as being middle class. The phrase can be modified by "upper" or "lower" to mean rich or poor, but for Americans a modified middle class status is more comfortable than being defined as rich or poor.

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    Because of the strong overlap between American values and middle class values, being middle class is often assumed to be the socio-economic state of nature by Americans as many people believe that absent government intervention or disruptive outside forces, a strong middle class will emerge. This is a narrative that fits very nicely with the anti-government rhetoric of the right wing and appeals to our own national confidence, suggesting that the best thing government can do for the American middle class is to get out of its way.

    The history of the American middle class, however, is quite different. The middle class which arose out of post-war, and more significantly, post-depression, America was of great historical significance. It was the first mass middle class. While there were clearly Americans left out of this middle class, notably in the south where an apartheid system kept many African Americans in poverty, the post-war middle class was still larger and broader than any previous notions of middle class. Before that time, middle class status was reserved for small business owners and professionals, not for millions of blue, white and pink collar workers.

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    Thousands of graduates of public universities, which made higher education available to almost everybody who could succeed academically, formed the backbone of the post-war middle class. Employment and training programs made it possible for people to advance their careers. Social security meant that old people would no longer live in poverty as often and that younger workers would not have to spend as much taking care of their elderly parents. Through collective bargaining, insured by the Wagner Act of 1935, labor unions were able to negotiate wages and benefits so that their members were able to join the middle class as well. Primarily because of America's ugly racial history, some groups were left out of these programs and the middle class as well, but it is clear that without these, and numerous other government interventions, the middle class as we know it would not have existed.

    The US government played an integral role in creating, and at times maintaining the American middle class. Today the middle class is threatened both because the values that once defined it are no longer broadly shared and because the federal government has essentially renounced its partnership with the middle class. Deregulation of the finance sector, cuts to social and physical infrastructure, regressive tax policies and irresponsible spending by both parties have put the middle class, and with it American society as we know it, at risk.

    If the middle class in the US continues to whither away due to recession, constant unemployment, government policies that are not supportive of middle class Americans and that outsource jobs overseas, it will not just be formerly middle class Americans who will suffer, it will also be difficult for American society and democracy to hold together. A large and stable middle class has been central to America's wealth and stability for decades; without this middle class the country's future will be in great peril.

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  2. Douger
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    The people that own your ****ry have a better plan.
    They can take their companies overseas and the profit's go up tenfold.
    They also own your politicians so it's considered "all good".
    Your ' leaders" own stocks in those companies.
     
  3. Douger
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    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN9xQTqMEUU]YouTube - Gerald Celente: Cover-Up, not recovery![/ame]
     
  4. Carol
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    Carol Member

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    The GI Bill was very important, not only to developing our middlle class but also our technology. The GI bill got many GI's through college, and with college degrees they were able get in the ground floor for develop the technology that benefited us medically, and economically, and of course high tech military weapons. A college education almost gaurentteed upward economic mobility, but that easy upward economic mobility hasn't been true for many years.

    The GI bill also got returning soldiers into housing with low interest loans.

    I think of that WWII as kind of the gravy train generation. Sure the depression and war were very hard on this generation, but what followed, the GI Bill and developing technologies, was a gravy, that I don't think we can repeat.
    There aren't that many new technologies opening with ground floor opportunites, and we don't have the open fields just waiting for suburban housing projects.

    One more piece of bad news. When we were exporting oil, that oil money poured into our banks, making them flush with money to loan. Oil was a major export, greater all other exports combined, and that filled out gavoernment coffers with revenus and filled out banks with money to loan. When the mid east oil countries started developing their oil industry, they put their money in our banks, for safe keeping and reasonably good interest rates. That money is gone, and interest rates are s crashed it isn't coming back. I can not prove it, but I think the higher ups were trying to malnipulate a correction for the banking problem, by encouraging house loans. Those loans didn't put money in the bank like the oil money did, but on paper the banks could claim the loaned money as assets, right? It was false wealth, and the party is over. I am sure not the smartest person when it comes to these money games, but I do know our gross national product is tied to oil, and we are now importing it. That means money leaving our country instead of coming into it. It means less money in our banks, so our banks don't have the money to loan out, and it less revenue for our government.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2010
  5. antagon
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    antagon The Man

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    i dont think the middle class as a concept is imperiled. it just wont be the same as it was in 1963. if the late forties was the birth of the middle class, then i'd say it is just entering gradeschool now and learning some lessons about fiscal discipline and the dangers of taking candy from strangers.
     
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  6. antagon
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    antagon The Man

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    hence GNP -> GDP as the metric of choice. i think that analysis is right on, but i still see GDP as a more effective tool for trapping our economic activity.

    many things have changed in our system to recapitalize banks and otherwise keep money flowing in our economy. but you're right again pointing out that the gambit over home-lending has all but killed one paradigm and initiated a scramble for the next.
     
  7. Douger
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  8. editec
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    editec Mr. Forgot-it-All

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    What created the middle class?

    First America became extraordinarily wealthy because it had the resources and manpower to become so. This period was highlight6ed during the GILDED AGE.

    Then the working classes started demanding their share of the American pie, and thanks to (reluctantly at first, but eventually) government giving unions the right to organize, that pie was shared.

    And that wealth going to so many workers kicked off the middle class,

    Follow closely the credit industry (it started in the 1920s) and the middle class created the consumer driven economy we have (or at least until recently) today.

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    Yes. The GI bill might have been one of the most brilliant investments this nation EVER MADE. It rivals the Lousiana puchase in my opinion.


    Yup.


    And because of their power to demand reasonable wages, non unions shops ALSO had to start paying a living wge, too


    Agreed.


    And please note how ever since the PATCO strike, workers have had less and less power, too.



    Yup!

    At risk?! Hell, it's killing the middle class

    A strong American middle class was the hope of mankind.

    It was proof that a society can be something other than an elites with too much sitting on top of the masses who are treated like cattle.

    That's exactly why the authoritarian mind so hates humanism, democracy and the US middle class.

    And about half the people on this board?

    They hate the whole concept of a strong middle class, and they despise democratic thinking generally.

    Closet monarchists, most of them, althought I doubt they understand that about themseves.

    Few of them seems to understand that the end game of unbridled capitalism is monarchy like government.

    Or, I don't know, given that so many of them are also religious freaks, perhaps they're comfortable with a strong man government generally.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2010
  9. antagon
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    antagon The Man

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    i dig it, editec, but i think union labor rights evolved independently from the rest of america's and that a legislative history supported it more than unionized labor's market influence.
     
  10. Douger
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