Working Poor Unready to Revolt
" -- - Once upon a time when governments
no longer served most of their citizens it was the most
economically disadvantaged that could be counted on to rebel
against tyranny and injustice. Times have changed, for the
worse, despite the spread of democracy.
Here we are
with a two-party plutocracy that preferentially serves
corporate and wealthy interests and lets the middle class
suffer and sink. Plausibly, the middle class is unready to
revolt because it still maintains a relatively good standard
of living despite rising economic insecurity. But what
about the lowest 40 percent of Americans that are the
survey of this group by the Washington Post, the Henry J.
Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University conducted
this past June looked at the beliefs of adults ages 18 to 64
working 30 or more hours a week, not self-employed and who
earned no more than $27,000 in 2007. The results show a
fascinating dichotomy. Though there is widespread pain and
discontent there is also a stubborn faith in the American
dream despite little help from government.
percent of this group sees the current economy negatively,
either not so good or poor, with 52 percent feeling
financially insecure and 50 percent feeling less secure than
a few years ago. The fractions saying they have difficulty
affording basic things are severe, including: 88 percent
that cannot save money for college or other education for
their children, 82 percent paying for gasoline or other
transportation costs, 81 percent saving money for
retirement, 65 percent paying for health care and health
insurance, 65 percent handling child care, close to 60
percent paying credit card bills, monthly utility bills and
rent or mortgage costs, and 47 percent buying food. Three
quarters say it has gotten harder to find good jobs and
nearly that fraction for finding affordable health care, and
68 percent finding decent, affordable housing.
In the past
year this group has had to take many actions to make ends
meet, including 70 percent that cut electricity use and home
heating; 62 percent that took an extra job or worked extra
hours, 51 percent that postponed medical or dental care and
50 percent that took money out of savings or retirement
sounds pretty bleak. But are these people mad and
pessimistic? Not exactly.
69 percent are hopeful about their personal financial
situation, 59 percent believe they are more likely over the
next few years to move up in terms of their social class, 59
percent believe that their children will have a standard of
living much or somewhat better than theirs, and 56 percent
think they will achieve the American dream in their
lower economic class, hardest hit Americans that account for
25 percent of the adult population believe that government
helps them? No. Only 22 percent believe that government
programs are making things better for them. But apparently
they have bought hook, line and sinker into Barack Obama’s
change rhetoric, with a 2 to 1 margin favoring him over John
McCain. And when it comes to beliefs about which candidate
will do better for them the margins favoring Obama go up to
3 or more to 1 for improving their own financial situation,
the national economy and the national health care system.
Similarly, Obama is seen as much more concerned with their
needs and better represent their values. All very good news
for Obama, except that only 70 are registered to vote and
about a third saw no difference in whether Obama or McCain
was in office.
Obama, however, pales in comparison to the other source of
comfort for dealing with hard economic times. A striking 78
percent find religion or faith in God helps them get through
tough economic times.
unmistakable conclusion from all these data is that no
rebellion against the power elites running the two-party
plutocracy seems likely. If the bottom 40 percent of
Americans in terms of income still believe in the American
dream and change-spouting politicians like Obama, it is hard
to believe that the more affluent middle 40 percent of the
population are ready to support more radical change through
how gasoline prices are dropping as we approach the
Republican and Democratic conventions and Election Day.
Apparently, America’s ruling class knows what it is doing.
It can keep channeling more and more of the nation’s wealth
to the rich, Upper Class producing more economic inequality
without fearing the kind of political revolution that Thomas
Jefferson thought the nation needs periodically. Consider
this: In the three decades after World War II household
inflation-adjusted income of the bottom 90 percent increased
83 percent compared to 20 percent increase for the top 10
percent. In contrast, in the past three decades, the bottom
90 percent saw only a 10 percent increase while the top 10
percent received an increase of 232 percent! The two-party
stranglehold on our political system has produced rising
that nonsense about the proletariat. Most Americans use
their faith in God or religion or conventional politicians
to cope, even in some of the most insecure economic times in
American history. They remain overly confident in voting as
the path to change. The ruling class has successfully used
propaganda to dumb down and manipulate most of the public
because delusion has become the opiate of the masses.
In God and
Barack Obama We Trust could be placed on all our currency if
the views of millions of Americans are taken seriously.
Don’t you feel better?
Hirschhorn can be reached through