There is no middle class, there never was a middle class.
A class that is not self-conscious is only a class in a purely indexical sense. Minerals can be classified by hardness, and people can be classified by income. But it doesn't make the middle class a class in the way the European aristocracy or the serfs who supported them were classes.
What we have is groups with special benefits: groups who do not relate to one another, do not see their interests as intertwined, and do not work together.
An example of a group with special benefits is an army, or a police force. They impose or maintain order, they protect the interests of the rich, and they get pretty good pensions. But they don't see themselves as middle class in the sense of having interests that are aligned with those of other working people.
Similarly, doctors are not middle class, they are doctors. They don't have the idea that they are in a struggle with their industrial worker brothers and sisters to get a fair share. Mid-level managers are not middle-class, they are mid-level managers. They competed with other workers for their positions, and feel no loyalty to workers in general. Farmers are not middle class, they are farmers. They don't see their fates tied up with those of public employees.
And so on, and so on.
So when the rich-- with the help of the craven politicians they've bought and the phony think tanks they've funded-- start picking us off one group at a time, the other groups are not there showing solidarity with their fellow "middle class" Americans.
For the most part, none of the people in any of those groups realizes their incomes ultimately depend on each other's income. If everyone in the middle class except doctors is made poor, doctors won't be able to command the incomes they do. Doctor's should be fighting for public employees in Wisconsin (as well as fighting for decent Medicaire reimbursement). If everyone in the middle class is made poor except for farmers, demand will fall, prices will fall, and farmers won't be able to command the incomes they do. Farmers should be screaming for the repeal of NAFTA (as well as demanding price supports).
And so on, and so on.
Finally, make no mistake about it: The attempt to undermine Social Security in particular and the social safety net in general is part of a long term plan by the rich to destroy the "middle class" altogether. (They don't think they need a middle class.) That safety net is what keeps "middle class" people from falling into poverty if they suffer a job loss or a family illness, etc. Every one of the "middle class" groups with special benefits should be determined that the attempt not succeed.
It is likely in our genes to have social stratification. So whether a society calls itself capitalist, socialist, or nudist we will enrich some, impoverish others and have groups with special benefits. Fine. And there will always be an ebb and flow with each group growing or shrinking because of material forces and the arc of history. Fine. But a society can aim to have few rich and few poor.
The rich are not as wise as they are greedy. If we don't rein them in, they will destroy the "middle class", which will destroy America as we know it-- destroy it for them as well as us.
Labels: clas warfare, social safety net