Monday, April 10, 2006
DeTocqueville's Nightmare: The Death Of The Middle Class
When Alexis de Tocqueville visited America half a century after the Declaration of Independence, he noted that, aside from the slavery-ridden, economically backward South, the financial differences between rich and non-rich were not all that great, and the middle class, the thing most necessary for a functioning democracy, was strong, well-educated, and thriving. Nearly everyone did well, and the most affluent Americans saw a patriotic duty to encourage learning, health and happiness among their fellow citizens; as Neil Postman notes in his 1986 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, 19th-Century America may have been the most literate and well-informed society the world has ever seen, or will ever see. And then came the Gilded Age, and the rise of the robber barons. The growth of the big fortunes even as millions fell into poverty. This itself triggered a backlash in the form of the Populist movement and the growth of unions. Now, we are seeing the Gilded Age Redux, as the richest get richer while most of the rest of can't even hold what we have. We are seeing the death of the American middle class even as families like the Waltons (of Wal-Mart infamy) profit hugely and obscenely from destroying American jobs and America's heartland. (By the way: The Waltons want to get into banking, too. Oh, joy.) This is why Bush's billionaires' tax cuts are so obscene and unpatriotic. For a deeper explanation, just go here. And because I should end this with some good news, I note that Silvio Berlusconi -- the right-wing Italian media magnate and Bush buddy who bought himself the rulership of Italy -- is facing defeat at the polls today. Mind you, Berlusconi not only owned much of the Italian media, but also used his position to try and cow what he didn't own outright. If the Italians can overcome his intensive efforts to gaslight them, then perhaps the Americans can overcome the Bush/GOP efforts to hoodwink them.
More blogs about politics.