Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bye, Bye American Pie

"The middle class is disappearing," says [Vermont Senator Bernie] Sanders. "In real ways we're becoming more like a third-world country." The observation is true in all of the states, methinks. Let that phrase "the middle class is disappearing" roll around in your heads for a bit. The senator is talking about a whole bunch of people. Senator Sanders came to this conclusion after getting letters from hundreds and hundreds of his constituents after asking them how they were faring economically. He heard horror stories about 71-year old guys having to go back to work to pay property taxes and fuel oil; a single mom who has burned furniture to stay warm and sleeps on the floor in the kitchen because the cost of fuel oil is so high; of cancer patients who can't afford their treatments because they cannot afford the gas to drive to hospitals. And on and on.

Matt Taibbi, the author of this piece on the subject of the vanishing middle class goes on to observe that it is precisely these class issues that simply don't get addressed in our political campaigns. The desperate financial straits affecting millions of Americans, worse and deteriorating, is no secret.

Here, however, is something that is a secret: that this is a class issue that is being intentionally downplayed by a political/media consensus bent on selling the public a version of reality where class resentments, or class distinctions even, do not exist. Our "national debate" is always a thing where we do not talk about things like haves and have-nots, rich and poor, employers versus employees. But we increasingly live in a society where all the political action is happening on one side of the line separating all those groups, to the detriment of the people on the other side.

It continually amazes me how people can keep taking it in the chops year after year by the richest segment of our population, sink slowly into basically hand-to-mouth existence, and they still think the really important concerns are issues that have nothing whatever to do with their actual lives. Things like gay marriage.

And the way the current campaign is shaping up, the main focus will once again be frivolities.
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