jazzoLOG: I Am The Middle Class    
 I Am The Middle Class9 comments
picture10 Mar 2007 @ 13:08, by Richard Carlson

No more games. No more bombs. No more walking. No more fun. No more swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No fun---for anybody. 67. You are getting greedy. Act your old age. Relax---This won't hurt.

---Hunter Thompson's suicide note (1937-2005)

It often happens that I awake at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the pope.

---Pope John XXIII

Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself and yourself alone one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: "Does this path have a heart?" If it does, the path is good. If it doesn't, it is of no use.

---Don Juan

The photo is the unfinished and unsold "House of the Day" at a website where a caption reads: "I was thinking maybe I wanted a bigger backyard, more privacy and more closet space." [link]

I, on the other hand, was thinking of writing a deep, philosophical essay today on what it feels like to turn 67, especially given what Hunter Thompson had to say and do at that age. But the Pisces swims up and down the stream, and wriggles out of hand just when you think you've got him. And so, as on many Saturdays, I've run across some stuff to read that could not be denied...and just didn't get to it. So? I can do whatever I want to on my birthday!

I did spend a long time this morning writing some friends about the Ed Schultz Show, which is a progressive radio call-in format on the AM dial out of Fargo, North Dakota. A rightwing radio station in Athens is trying it out suddenly, and I'm attempting to drum up support. If you live somewhere in the States or elsewhere around the world where you don't receive or haven't heard of Big Eddie, let me introduce you. This guy is on the vanguard of turning AM radio around and back to the way things used to be in this country: balanced broadcasting with an interest in neither left nor right but JUSTICE instead. Here was his guest list this week: Barack Obama, Howard Dean, John Edwards, John Conyers, Joe Wilson, and yesterday Henry Waxman. Hillary was on last week. You want to talk to those people, or have Eddie ask them a question? He'll do it for you. Just call or email him. You can download his shows or parts of them that interest you at [link] . In Athens he's on live from 3 until 6 in the afternoon on WAIS, 770 AM.

But then, just as I was about to tackle my deep, philosophical essay, I ran across the excerpt AlterNet put up of a speech Paul Krugman gave recently about the theft of the middle class by the rich, and I had to get into it.
"If you look back across the past 80 years or so of the United States, what you see is that in the 1920s, we were for practical purposes still in the gilded age. That may not be the way the historians cut it, but in terms of the actual distribution of income, so far as we can measure it in terms of the role of status and general feel of the society, we were still an extremely unequal royalist society.
"By the time World War II was over, we had become the middle-class society that the baby boomers in this audience grew up in. We had become a much more equal society. That high degree of equality began to go away -- depending on exactly which numbers you look at -- during the late 70's, maybe a little earlier than that. And at this point we're basically back to pre-tax and transfer to the levels of inequality that we had in 1929.
"So there is this great arc to the middle class, away from gilded age to middle-class society and then back to the new gilded age, which is now what we're living in."

The real take-off for the middle class, I suppose, was the US entry into World War II, which came on top of the urgent reconstruction of many economies following the Depression. My generation was born in the late '30s and early '40s, and so we have lived completely through that flight of paradise that finally began its nosedive with Reagan. Many of us in the '60s, of course, deplored "middle class values" and did all we could to attack them. Sometimes I think we felt responsible and ashamed for much of the disruption that ensued, and so spent the '70s in the meditation halls repenting. Oops, now I'm wandering into philosophy...so allow me to refer you to the speech itself AND the 150 comments already~~~

We're also shopping around right now for a college or university for our daughter to attend in a couple years. For some unknown reason she's doing really well with her studies and wants to go on. The process ain't what it was in the late '50s (when I applied to exactly ONE college, and got in with scholarship) and it's not too early to start worrying. Yeah. Professor Krugman isn't the only one wondering if all that's left is a rich-poor society. The March 29th issue of The New York Review of Books is carrying a review entitled Scandals of Higher Education written by Andrew Delbanco, Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities and Director of American Studies at Columbia.

"It is hardly surprising that lots of rich kids go to America's richest colleges. It has always been so. But today's students are richer on average than their predecessors. Between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s, in a sample of eleven prestigious colleges, the percentage of students from families in the bottom quartile of national family income remained roughly steady— around 10 percent. During the same period the percentage of students from the top quartile rose sharply, from a little more than one third to fully half. If the upscale shops and restaurants near campus are any indication, the trend has continued if not accelerated. And if the sample is broadened to include the top 150 colleges, the percentage of students from the bottom quartile drops to 3 percent. In short, there are very few poor students at America's top colleges, and a large and growing number of rich ones."

Well, we got a rich kid with a C average as President right now. Anybody still think this is a healthy trend?

"Our richest colleges could and should do a better job of recruiting needy students, which would require spending more money on the effort to find and support them. They could cut back on lounges in the library and luxuries in the dorms—features of college life designed to please coddled students and attract more of the same. They could demand more from faculty and reward coaches and administrators less lavishly. And just as they scout for athletes across the nation and the world, they could hire more admissions professionals and assign them to inner-city and rural schools."

Anyone doubting Delbanco's lounge theory of education should come here to Athens and take a look at the new Baker Student Center Ohio University just built. I call it Taj Mahal on the Hocking (which is the name of the river that runs through here). Four or five floors (with escalators AND elevators) of luxury beyond the imagination of anyone who went to college in the 20th century! Write OU's president and ask him what the electricity bill is for the thing per year.

Professor Delbanco's article is online and I recommend it without reservation. [link] Now, is there some cake around here somewhere?

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10 Mar 2007 @ 17:06 by vaxen : Wot?!
Money for Colleges? But, but... then we couldn't blow all that bread on destroying eveyrthing in site so we could rebuild it again, better, stronger... Hey, man, you a commie oh sumpfin? ;)

But we all know the shell game routines of the fanciful ''rich.'' Don't we? Leave the system... happy birhday!

PS: That is one spooky house jazzo! Send your daughter to the Sorbonne and forget the rest. Or, the CIA has a nice program that you might want to look into. All the best to you and yours jazzo.  

10 Mar 2007 @ 17:11 by bushman : Hmm
Happy B-Day :}  

14 Mar 2007 @ 13:02 by rayon : Tough Birthday article
Jazzolog, hope the cake was better eating. I read all 41 pages of the Krugman article. He can barely write, I certainly could barely read it without dizziness setting in, no footholds or handholds not even earth below. Goodness me. But the comments made up for it, a little democracy here Ho HO! Forget all the reasons everyone cites, the unions, and dates and events. My one reason for the sad demise of the stalwart class is TV and Hollywood. Have a daily diet of what has become essential mind bruising for too many too young and they will lose any handholds or footholds on society and its entrenched systems which they MUST join to change some. I was raised in the wild, no TV, no nothing but hide of croc!!

Still young then? have a lovely Birthday week. . . .


16 Mar 2007 @ 13:26 by rayon : More reasons ...

The cost of Insurance added to everyone's service (professional indemnity) - now it is the Midwife's turn to be enforced to pay for this, only to pass the cost onto Mother's to be.

Exactly that which has happened throughout the professional working sector. Dentists, architects, all manner of people, passing on the cost to patients and clients.

Then there is the cost of other insurance, flood, fire, theft, house, ad nausem, which must all be passed on.

Into the equation must go a negative decline in individual work expertise as technology advances and replaces the workers task which was in itself

A Very Important Learning Curve - done automatically during the course of work,

which over time allowed them to rise within the ranks of a firm, by dint of their own interest, initiative, elbow grease, team effort, dedication, etc etc and or start their own business.

The job specs of many many people is simply limited to certain tasks on a computer. No dialogue with others, no viewing of reports, they are no longer a cog in a wheel, they are just the slave labour turning the wheel, largely blindfold to the overall issues of their work.

This has taken away the all important LEARNING curve and handing it to the INSTITUTIONS who can now set millions of courses (a degree in surfing), which can be paid for by those keen to get on. In other words the only way one can get on is to continually do courses, and be brainwashed by someone else, to do the work their way. This is pure Android life.

The middle classes were a group of people with a little spare time and a brain. They used their spare time in all manner of ways usually adding SPICE to all our lives, and creating a magic DIVERSITY and THRIVING and relatively HAPPY people, not necessarily dependent on more and more Money, but being able to provide a really good life on thrifty spending and myriad interests.

Many Many people do rely on TV to make themselves feel in the Know; not only is just filling up on rubbish, but it removes from them the valuable spare time they used to have deploying their hands, minds and hearts from whatever interests and hobbies or studies or projects they used to persue, without financial cost but to huge personal gain and in the process becoming that most valuable middle class group of healthy societies.  

30 Mar 2007 @ 13:13 by rayon : Stereotypes formed
by the Media and thrown especially to the college agers will affect self perception which will greater distort the rich/poor gap and in turn college ambitions. Unless the particular less well off individuals have strong mentor figures in the church say or some supportive entrenched organisation, I imagine it would be difficult for them to conceive of the option.

I have just read more of the links, especially the last. If I had known that there was no chance of my going to university, I doubt my efforts in top grade science and maths class with latin etc would have been maintained. I was told by a head teacher (a nun) that I was one who would definitely go on to university, without question, and I worked accordingly. This is not what transpired, but the point is I would not have been able to do so much without consistent moral support.


31 Mar 2007 @ 08:14 by jazzolog : A Matter Of Class
I'm glad nraye is continuing to contribute to this thread. In the States we've been taught never to speak of "class warfare" because only Commies do that. It's a wonderful brainwash the rightwing engineered back in the '50s, and we still swallow it...even after the rich have sucked our treasury dry and moved all their digs offshore.  

2 Apr 2007 @ 13:03 by rayon : Interesting,
So that is perhaps the factor giving a false impression of Serendipity as it is known in academic circles in the UK. There is definitely the overall impression given by the media that most folk in the US are quite happy with their lot. It may also affect the amount of time given to listen to those who dare to "complain" - they may be seen as wet blankets against the whole utopian message given out by the rightwing engineering you mention here. Very interesting indeed, Jazzo. Thank you.

If I may from time to time, as I commute to and fro daily, new thoughts come to mind on this vexing question, perhaps they can be added.


Without doubt. Your comments, observations always welcome.


3 Apr 2007 @ 09:58 by jazzolog : Quarter Century To Destroy Middle Class
Distract and Disenfranchise
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
Monday 02 April 2007

I have a theory about the Bush administration abuses of power that are now, finally, coming to light. Ultimately, I believe, they were driven by rising income inequality.

Let me explain.

In 1980, when Ronald Reagan won the White House, conservative ideas appealed to many, even most, Americans. At the time, we were truly a middle-class nation. To white voters, at least, the vast inequalities and social injustices of the past, which were what originally gave liberalism its appeal, seemed like ancient history. It was easy, in that nation, to convince many voters that Big Government was their enemy, that they were being taxed to provide social programs for other people.

Since then, however, we have once again become a deeply unequal society. Median income has risen only 17 percent since 1980, while the income of the richest 0.1 percent of the population has quadrupled. The gap between the rich and the middle class is as wide now as it was in the 1920s, when the political coalition that would eventually become the New Deal was taking shape.

And voters realize that society has changed. They may not pore over income distribution tables, but they do know that today's rich are building themselves mansions bigger than those of the robber barons. They may not read labor statistics, but they know that wages aren't going anywhere: according to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of workers believe that it's harder to earn a decent living today than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

You know that perceptions of rising inequality have become a political issue when even President Bush admits, as he did in January, that "some of our citizens worry about the fact that our dynamic economy is leaving working people behind."

But today's Republicans can't respond in any meaningful way to rising inequality, because their activists won't let them. You could see the dilemma just this past Friday and Saturday, when almost all the G.O.P. presidential hopefuls traveled to Palm Beach to make obeisance to the Club for Growth, a supply-side pressure group dedicated to tax cuts and privatization.

The Republican Party's adherence to an outdated ideology leaves it with big problems. It can't offer domestic policies that respond to the public's real needs. So how can it win elections?

The answer, for a while, was a combination of distraction and disenfranchisement.

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 were themselves a massive, providential distraction; until then the public, realizing that Mr. Bush wasn't the moderate he played in the 2000 election, was growing increasingly unhappy with his administration. And they offered many opportunities for further distractions. Rather than debating Democrats on the issues, the G.O.P. could denounce them as soft on terror. And do you remember the terror alert, based on old and questionable information, that was declared right after the 2004 Democratic National Convention?

But distraction can only go so far. So the other tool was disenfranchisement: finding ways to keep poor people, who tend to vote for the party that might actually do something about inequality, out of the voting booth.

Remember that disenfranchisement in the form of the 2000 Florida "felon purge," which struck many legitimate voters from the rolls, put Mr. Bush in the White House in the first place. And disenfranchisement seems to be what much of the politicization of the Justice Department was about.

Several of the fired U.S. attorneys were under pressure to pursue allegations of voter fraud - a phrase that has become almost synonymous with "voting while black." Former staff members of the Justice Department's civil rights division say that they were repeatedly overruled when they objected to Republican actions, ranging from Georgia's voter ID law to Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting, that they believed would effectively disenfranchise African-American voters.

The good news is that all the G.O.P.'s abuses of power weren't enough to win the 2006 elections. And 2008 may be even harder for the Republicans, because the Democrats - who spent most of the Clinton years trying to reassure rich people and corporations that they weren't really populists - seem to be realizing that times have changed.

A week before the Republican candidates trooped to Palm Beach to declare their allegiance to tax cuts, the Democrats met to declare their commitment to universal health care. And it's hard to see what the G.O.P. can offer in response.


5 Apr 2007 @ 08:41 by jazzolog : NY Times On The Upper Class
Maybe following up on Krugman's column Monday, the editor collected these facts for us yesterday on distribution of money in these United States~~~

The New York Times
April 4, 2007
It Didn’t End Well Last Time

Not since the Roaring Twenties have the rich been so much richer than everyone else. In 2005, the latest year for which figures are available, the top 1 percent of Americans — whose average income was $1.1 million a year — received 21.8 percent of the nation’s income, their largest share since 1929.

Over all, the top 10 percent of Americans — those making more than about $100,000 a year — collected 48.5 percent, also a share last seen before the Great Depression.

Those findings are no fluke. They follow a disturbing rise in income concentration in 2003, and a sharp increase in 2004. And the trend almost certainly continues, spurred now as then by the largess of top-tier compensation, and investment gains that also flow mainly to the top. For the bottom 90 percent of Americans who are left with half the pie, average income actually dipped in 2005. The group’s wages picked up in 2006, but not enough to make up for the lean years of this decade.

Sensing a political problem, administration officials from President Bush on down have begun acknowledging income inequality. But in their remarks, they invariably say it has been around for decades and is largely driven by technological change. Translation: “We didn’t cause it, and trying to do something about it would be silly.”

Let’s get a few things straight: First, the economic gains of the last few years have been exceptionally skewed. From the 1970s to the mid-1990s, the gap between rich and poor widened considerably, but produced nothing like today’s intense concentration of income at the very top. And from 1995 to 2000, the long trend toward inequality was interrupted by general prosperity. The richest Americans did best, propelled by stock market gains. But the lower rungs also advanced.

Second, government policies do matter. Part of the reason for the shared prosperity of the late 1990s was an increase in the minimum wage and a big expansion of the earned income tax credit. During the same period, a strong economy coupled with fiscal discipline — including tax increases, spending cuts and binding budget rules — conquered budget deficits and furthered job growth while providing a foundation for reasonably adequate social spending.

In contrast, the economic policies of the Bush years have failed to benefit most Americans. The tax cuts have overwhelmingly benefited the richest. As a result, the tax code does less to narrow the income gap now than it did as recently as 2000. At the same time, important social spending has been cut. That exacerbates disparities, because middle-class and poor Americans use government services more than affluent Americans.

The nation needs an administration that will offer solutions for the scourge of income inequality.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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