Tuesday, July 05, 2016

There Are Three Main Classes in America. Two Are Represented by Political Parties


Working class voters, from the accounting office to the construction site, of all races and genders, are forgotten once they leave the polling place. Land of the free, or of something else? (Tom Pennington/Getty; source)

by Gaius Publius

Something to think about as we return to our post-celebratory American Independence world. About 10% of the country is represented by a political party. The rest is not.

The writing below was taken from something published by Devin Reynolds at Medium. It perfectly expresses what Thomas Frank, chief among others, has also said. Here's one of Reynolds main points:
Let’s be honest, Bernie and Hillary don’t represent the same class.

We traditionally think of the Republican/Democrat divide in terms of the “ruling class” and the “working class,” or “the 1% v. the 99%.” Democrats are thought to faithfully represent the interests of the working class. The Republicans, carrying the torch for the richest of the rich, manage to stay competitive by dubiously securing votes from the working class. They do this by exploiting the economic ignorance and racial prejudices of low information working class voters. While there is a significant amount of truth to this model’s description of Republicans, there is a wrinkle to the makeup of the Democratic Party that this model neglects to mention.

This wrinkle is the fact that the “99%” actually has multiple classes within it. The main division is between the “upper middle” class and various “lower” classes. At about 10–15% of the population, the upper middle class is made up of doctors, lawyers, university professors, various skilled professionals, and owners of successful local businesses around the country. These people don’t need universal hearth care, they just need their excellent employer provided health care to have its cost increases managed and they need to not be dropped from health care rolls for preexisting conditions. Their kids don’t need tuition free college, they just need manageable interest rates for their financial aid. They get generous amounts of paid vacation, they don’t need it provided on a mandatory basis. The Democratic Party, in all its incrementalism, tweaking the status quo with modest policy adjustments, represents this class.

Then there are the lower classes. Making up 85–90% percent of the population, this group is the true “working class.” This is the most diverse group in the country, it ranges from “middle class” semi-skilled office workers to truly “lower class” day laborers. While some members live more comfortably than others, this group, by and large, exchanges its labor for just enough money to get by. Their jobs have few, if any, benefits. These people would greatly benefit from policies like universal health care, tuition free public college, mandatory paid time off, and many of the other worker-empowering policies, funded by progressive tax rates, that are standard procedure for most of the developed world outside of the United States. This class has no political party.

The divide between the top 1% and the top 10% makes our political system look competitive, and there are legitimate diverging interests between those two classes. That said, in practice, our two political parties split the vote for the working class, then both ignore it in favor of their primary constituencies. The simple reality of this dynamic is that the majority of the population’s interests go unrepresented. While Republican members of the working class are exploited by their low-information status into voting for policies that benefit the top 1%, the Democratic members of this group allow themselves to be browbeaten into supporting policies that largely benefit the top 10% based on the dubious supposition that those policies are “better than Republican policies.” With one half of the working class deceived into voting Republican and the other half treated like it has no choice but to vote Democrat, 90% of the population has its interests treated like an afterthought. Bernie’s entire campaign was an attempt to change that.
I would have made this the title of my own piece, if it weren't so long. It's perfect, though, as a way to capture what Frank captured in an entire book:
in practice, our two political parties split the vote for the working class, then both ignore it in favor of their primary constituencies.
This is impressively tight, clear and cogent, as is the rest of the article. For example:
The working classes had their jobs shipped overseas in the dead of night from the 1980s-2000s. No one really noticed that an economic genocide was being perpetrated on the working class until it was too late. Those people have been suffering for a generation.
And immediately following:
The upper middle class suffered some recent setbacks when the 2007 financial crisis precipitated a downturn in the global economy. The owners of successful local businesses have seen their fortunes shrink and skilled professionals have seen their retirements take a hit. It was only once this creeping crisis started affecting the upper middle class that it became actual news. There was no “crisis” when the working class was being removed from the middle class over the course of 30 years. Once people with money started to take hits, the economic situation demanded bi-partisan action.
Of course the action that was taken in the face of the crisis also reflected the class interests that the government represented. Financial institutions that held the upper middle and ruling class’s money were bailed out while working class homeowners simply lost everything.
Not new information exactly, but clear in expression. "Economic genocide" indeed. And yes, distressed working class homeowners did "lose everything." Including their life expectancy (see also here). Props to the author for writing this. I encourage you to read the rest, if you have a few minutes to spare.

This is not a "what you should do" piece. Just something to ponder as we ponder having celebrated our freedom.


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At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The owners of successful local businesses have seen their fortunes shrink and skilled professionals have seen their retirements take a hit."

This is news??? How long has Walmart been devastating such people in Small Town America? Yet who do these "victims" end up voting for? The Republicans who claim to seek to inflict pain on large cities and immigrant communities!

I was in Alaska recently, where Lisa Murkowsky is running an ad claiming to defend Alaska from "ridiculous regulations", protecting "2nd Amendment traditions" and promoting "Alaskan values". 750,000 people desiring to tell 330 million of us what to do, which is primarily to allow them to convert Alaska into Appalachia. And, due to the Republicans who exploit them, it's working.

It's not just happening in Alaska. It's happening wherever change is imposed upon a community. The citizens of such places may gripe when the government does it, but their voices are stilled when it's the "private" sector doing it. Just don't try to point out when the "private" sector -which owns the government, as Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University demonstrated in their research paper entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens- uses the government to enhance "private" sector power over the rest of us through unconstitutional laws like TPP and TTIP. They won't believe you.

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the money gets further concentrated at the top, this becomes moot rationalization.

What is described WAS operative when the supremes coronated cheney (via the bushbaby), but is hardly operative now.

The money is so concentrated in the top 1% now, we must demarcate the line between the money that controls elections (top .01%) and the money that benefits mostly from the top .01%'s policies (the top 1%).

The bottom 99% may have a few in its top decile who get SOME gravy spashed on their taters, but that is strictly accidental at this point.

The point about when all this started is salient. When Carter was drubbed by brain dead voters in '80 and reagan started the whole supply side, corporate fellating, money whoring out in the open meme, we should have realized what was going on and stopped it abruptly in '82 and '84. But voters completely lost their minds and have never recovered since.

One might have thought that 2008 was an attempt at regaining our senses... but 2012 proved that untrue since we re-elected the worst D prez ever.

And in 2016 it looks like we're sure to elect an even worser D ever... or our version of Mussolini.

And 2016 was the first time since Carter that a real D, a viable one (because D voters are total morons and didn't like Kucinich) and D voters could not bring themselves to landslide Bernie into the nom (special moron kudos to black and women voters).

So we can analyze why the 99% of voters have lost their minds or how the party (with 2 sects) can fool almost all of us all the time.. or try to figure out why so many of us are just stupid... but it seems to be pointless at this juncture.

The american electorate is simply too stupid to ever demand their government represent, you know, most everyone. We're just fine with a D or a R representing the .01% and hosing the rest to varying degrees... or we'd demand change via electing Bernie.

So we'll either elect a guy who represents .000000303% (himself alone out of 330M) or a neocon neoliberal warmongering money whore who represents .01% with special atttention to bankers... and we'll get what we deserve.

And the betrayal by Bernie will FINALLY teach the 15%-ish of voters who are NOT total imbeciles to just give up forever. Whether Bernie did this on purpose or not is irrelevant.


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