Today's entry for a blog that I follow expresses mock incredulity at the notion that $500,000 is considered by some as "not a lot of money." I don't have incredulity, but I do have contempt for this line of thinking. In all of my life, I could not imagine having even half that much every year, yea, even one-fifth that much seemed more than ample. So like everybody else who doesn't live in the dream world where half a million dollars is not a lot of money, I was glad to hear that Obama demanded stringent salary conditions for executives of the companies we poor slobs down here were bailing out with our money. That decision plucked millions of populist strings.
It's about time! Last week the president called the continued Wall Street profligacy with bailout money shameful. This week he's giving these plutocrats of Wall Street the cuffing they deserve. I'll bet I'm not alone in wishing I could personally piss on their $1,300 shoes. These executives need to be shamed. The country, in a fit of real bipartisanship, agrees.
All of this brings up that dirty little secret that the over-stuffed middle class, aspiring (at least until recently) with all their might to become plutocrats themselves--because, after all, this is AMERICA, where anybody can get rich (a fiction that an amazingly large number of people still believe)--chooses to deny. That secret, of course, is that class conflict exists in the US, and it has existed from the beginning. The word is conflict. It doesn't mean vague dissatisfaction, mildly irritated, or just a little bit angry. It can mean murderous.
All I can tell you is that from a historian's perspective, the chief one I bring to these matters, when the gap between the moneyed class and the rest gets noticeably huge and the rich seem noticeably unaffected by the sufferings of the others . . . well, then blood gets spilled and fires break out. We haven't seen the worst of the current economic woes. We don't even know what the worst looks like or feels like.* And violence is second nature to all of us in America, richest to poorest across the spectrum.
Take that for what it's worth. Perhaps, or very likely even, the feverish hallucinations of an old man. Just don't tell me it can't happen here.
*"What we are now seeing is the beginning of an inevitable downward adjustment in American living standards to conform with our actual place in the world. As a nation of consumers, and not producers, with little to offer to the rest of the world except raw materials, food crops, military hardware and bad films (none of which industries employ many people), we are headed to a recovery that will not feel like a recovery at all." Dave Lindorf