Here is the fifth part of this week’s rigged economy series. A 28-minute documentary that is very good presenting the 1%’s war on the middle class, but – as so often – skips over the class below into which they are being pushed. This blind spot is a pet peeve of mine. I deplore that so many who rebel against the class war from the top against the so-called middle class (what exactly is that, really?) still ignore the underclass subsisting below, where millions of Americans have suffered in poverty all along and where we all are headed. Tomorrow, I will serve up a documentary which fills that gap, but this video today is still very worth watching. Ultimately, we need to take a look at all the tiers of our class society to get the full picture. So, please watch this report and read my commentary below:
(Note: if the video linked above gets deleted, you may search the Internet for the title: “The Death Of The American Middle Class”)
A small business owner lost $800,000 in the stock market, and as a consequence his house – the investment of a lifetime all gone. Then many like him began rallying around the astroturfed Tea Party. My take on it: when you are playing the board game of Monopoly, you love it while you are doing well in it. This changes when you begin to be squeezed out by those with the longer wealth levers. It is no different in real life. Lots of middle class Americans used to think our system was just fine. Only now, as so many American middle classers are being squeezed into poverty by the system the robber billionaires have erected do they start feeling that something is wrong. Sadly, instead of looking where they are being pushed towards and siding with the poor they are about to become — thus to form a powerful coalition — many just try to hold on to what they have and thus open themselves up to being tricked and co-opted by false-narrative-spewing outfits such as the Tea Party brought into existence by billionaires who only want to evade even more taxes than they already do and who – in order to push through even more skewed tax laws – invest into persuading the people harmed by this agenda into believing that it’s good for them or that the false-hearted right-wing demagogues erected as political candidates by these billionaires will represent the middle class instead of their paymasters.
An emotional moment in the report, 16:08 minutes in, is when the ruined business man and his wife visit the home they lost to our banksters’ speculations in mortgages and stocks. Then Thom Hartmann tells us the horrid statistics that, right now, the top 1% own more wealth than the bottom 90% and receive more income than the bottom 50%. (Note, I didn’t say earn, since the income of the rich – for the most part – comes in the form of capital gains, meaning investments, meaning that working people like you and me generate this income for them!)
Also important: upward mobility has almost disappeared in the U.S. The nation once famous for its rags to riches stories now keeps almost all people stuck at the level they were born or even pushes them downward, meaning the poor are kept poor and the former middle class gets pushed into poverty. For many years now, the old European countries, from which so many of our ancestors came, have had much more upward mobility than us.
In this documentary comes a part where it is claimed that the typical middle class income is $120,000 a year. First of all, that number isn’t accurate. An income of $120,000 lies far above the median income of $59,039 recorded by the Census Bureau for 2016, which by the way – when we take into consideration that nowadays both leading adults of a family household must bring in an income – means they are earning only $30,000 per person(!). Remember, a mere generation ago, a single income maintained a middle class household. So, $120,000 takes to a more or less upper middle class income, if you ask me. Our definition of middle class has always been a bit wishy-washy, I find, and everybody has always been eager to classify themselves as being part of it. A great way for the rich to fly under the radar and the poor to keep out of sight. A great way to hide our class society that’s almost as bad as the caste system in India. How long before Americans held in poverty will be called “untouchables?”
I am among the few who aren’t content with bemoaning the struggle of the middle class. Unlike most voices you hear, I regularly remind everyone that we have a large portion of our society living in POVERTY. The poor are people, too! We need to look at their situation, too! Nothing is more revealing about a society and its economy than how its least fortunate must live. And, having been poor throughout much of my life (including right now being unemployed again and nobody knowing about the excellent online science course I am offering), I can speak from experience. The sad fact is: if my household had a $120,000 income, we’d be able to buy and pay off a really nice house in just 1 to 3 years(!), depending on location. You see, we poor have to make due with so little, we can live on a much smaller financial footprint and could invest the rest into a home if we ever earned such handsome pay. The reason this isn’t happening more often is that the $120,000, decried as insufficient by the film makers of this report, is a rarity! It is a rarity because half of our nationwide income goes to the super-rich!
And why does half of our nationwide income goes to the super-rich? Not because they do half of the work. No! They receive all that money because they hold in their possession the alleged ownership of 90% of our country and our system then diverts half of what we dispossessed working Americans produce into their vaults as capital gains based on “their” assets! It’s like when you were a slave and your slave master made all the profit because the part of our country defined as “his” plantation was “owned” by him (as, incidentally were you). The only difference today is that the 1% realized owning you and me was unnecessary (and a constant risk of rebellion or civil war). As long as they kept the ownership title of the plantation (and all the other big businesses), they could exploit us as before and could even lay us off and save on our living expenses whenever their plantation (or other business) suffered a downturn in sales. Are you beginning to sense that there is something fundamentally wrong with our system of ownership and income distribution? I hope you do.
Of course, you probably won’t if you are still on a good run in our real life game of Monopoly, the version which isn’t played among equals but against the bank which sooner or later squeezes everybody else out of any kind of ownership and into debt peonage. Likewise, even if you are no longer on the winning side, it takes time for most people to overcome life-long false believes and the continuing relentless propaganda from the establishment, served up by the corporate media, our twin-party tyranny, and deceptive outfits like the Koch Brother’s Tea Party. As Mark Twain famously said: “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
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