Today's title comes from the new Donald Barlett and James Steele book, which was published this summer.
For the last three decades, policymakers in Washington and business leaders on Wall Street have betrayed the promise of the American dream—the belief that the United States, anyone who is willing to work hard has a fair chance to succeed. This concept is as important to the history of this country as the Bill of Rights, and in the twentieth century it inspired a large middle class of workers who had every reason to believe that their future was secure and that their children might become even more successful.
Today nearly everyone recognizes that America’s middle class is in crisis, and this book tells why: Since 1980, a series of policies and business strategies specifically crafted to enrich a wealthy few at the expense of everyone else have made it possible to systematically shift the burden of taxes to the middle class, send hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas and eliminate more than 85,000 pension plans.
The wealth gap between average workers and the elite one percent has never been greater, and it’s growing. This disparity is no accident: It’s the direct result of a systematic assault on the middle class in the form of tax policies, trade policies, and banking policies.
Whether these policies can be reversed will determine the future of this democracy. The late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once defined the choice which the country now faces in this way:
"We can have concentrated wealth in the hands of a few or we can have democracy. But we cannot have both."
I have not read the book, but I can infer from their interview with the Daily Ticker's Aaron Task (video below) that it provides a pretty fair summary of many of the points I've made on this blog. Twenty years ago Barlett and Steele wrote a book called America: What Went Wrong in which they predicted that unless there was a reversal of policies aimed toward dismantling the middle class, we would eventually live in the kind of society we live in today.
Now Barlett and Steele understand that they severely underestimated twenty years ago just how bad things would get, and how quickly.
America's middle class is toast, but we should temper our disgust about this unhappy situation by remembering that the rise of a large middle class in the United States was almost certainly an historical anomaly, a happy accident from which many of us benefited for many years. Young people will never get to live in that America. It's small consolation, I know.
While Barlett and Steele suggest some ways the trend toward a society of overlords and serfs could be reversed, they have no illusions that such policies will actually be implemented. Their main contribution is to demonstrate that the policies which have destroyed America's middle class were a consequence of the hijacking of our government by monied elites (corporations, especially the big banks). The middle class was dismantled intentionally. That's precisely what George Carlin said, although he did not have to write a book to get his point across.