City Journal Autumn 2014

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Fred Siegel
Who Lost the Middle Class? « Back to Story

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Anyone out there have any ideas on how we begin to turn back the liberal mob that is eroding our means of securing our rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is hard to exercise property rights when you are frustrated at every turn when pursuing goals that lead to income with which to purchase property. The affect the liberal mob is having on our culture and thus our civilization is not unlike that of the pod people on humankind in the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." The more frustrated we become while trying to make a living to build a future the more likely we are to join the mob.
My father and grandfather were USMC veterans and proud union members. My father proudly said that although a lifelong Democrat, he hadn't voted for them since Roosevelt. Stevenson was a wimp. Kennedy busted Hoffa and the unions. Johnson and his war on poverty was a government farce. McGovern was weak on VietNam. Carter a fop. Dukakis-Mondale, we can go on. Rather than support dishonorable men with a questionable social agenda, he voted GOP. I should point out that governor Cuomo's biggest achievements thus far have been gay marriage and a harsh contract on the CSEA (albeit necessary). These are hardly middle class concerns. So the answer is, the Democrats lost them. They were theirs and instead the power elite opted for special interests. And the GOP picked them up, like free money on the sidewalk. In eaither event, they certainly aren't being served.
Looking at some of the recent comments below it is interesting to see who reads these types of articles: people who are looking for pap to feed their bigotry and stereotypes. Why are so many inclined to obsess about the criminality of the poor and not about the obscenity of growing income inequality? Maybe there is a connection? Why doesn't someone at City Journal ever write about this?
Are you writing about the middle class, or the working class? If you mean 'working class', then, damn it, write 'working class'. People should mean what they say (or write) and say (or write) what they mean.
The solution is to outlive the leftist suburban children who now rule the country in the name of the 'working class' - meaning those have a job.
I hope I am wrong and this scum can be put in the trash of history, but I fear we're going to have war with the Leninists who will not peacefully give up power. Obama is an illegal president who is a puppet of Soros - as is the democrat Leninist party. The remedy is strong TEA from the people.
Democrat libs will kill America.........

Washington DC: Harare, Zimbabwe


Once the welfare and food stamps stop, the "diversity" Obama voters will destroy most major American cities.

Looting........Burning.......Stealing.....

Look to Detroit as a fine example of black culture.
Excellent, pithy analysis. I've read that as recently as the mid 60s, the NYC subways had teenagers riding around with rifles, and no one was alarmed. They were members of school shooting teams or ROTC, and they took their guns to and from school, in the open, on the subway. How far we have fallen, in such a short, short time. When what is shaping up to be the world-wide riots come to the US, I'm assuming our "leaders" will do nothing, and just let the cities burn. Obviously, the top-bottom, hourglass model of society is inherently unstable. Good luck.
Cutting is not growth. Businesses will grow if consumers have money to spend. The vast majority of America's income is in the bank accounts of a few people. They don't care because they are taxed less than everybody else. Tax the rich, force them to stop gobbling up everything for themselves and disperse income more fairly amongst a broader majoritry of people, and we will have a consumer-led recovery. Its not about cutting, its about growing. And, you can't grow if all the juice is concentrated in 400 people or even 1% of the population. That is sick and that's why this economy is sick.
Waiting for "members of the Tea Party, or Siegel to make specific recommendations as to what government programs should be cut, and by how much. Why should small and medium sized business bear the tax burden of supporting multi-national corporations. Taxes could be less for everyone if all the tax expenditures and subsidies were eliminated.
When the 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150,000,000 people, my guess is a lot of the Middle Class are lost in the 400's bank accounts. Quick let them out!
It was the AFL/CIO did more than anybody else to that destroy the middle class when they refused to honor PATCO's picket lines.
One thing we can always count on is that articles published by City Journal will always state that liberals are the cause of all ills.
Why is there no mention of the increasing about of income being sucked off by a few to the detriment of the many? Think that might have anything to do with it?
VERY well written article. Having been in the middle class and seeing my life impacted by exactly what is being mentioned, it is clear that unless dramatic actions are taken our country will become second-rate within the next few years.
The true unemployment rate here in Oregon is 22%. The grossly self-serving 9% that is given by the government and media consists of people currently receiving Unemployment benefits, but does not include those who do not get Unemployment any longer or those grossly underemployed (a Masters in an IT field that says, "Would you like to supersize that?"). As a benchmark, the Great Depression was 25%.
It is very true that the upcoming election will be a watermark one way or the other for our country's future. I sincerely hope the public is in the mood for changing the current direction of our country; otherwise, our children and grandchildren will be handed an enourmous burden of debt and an inability to pay just the interest on it.
The Tea Party is being demonized constantly by an extremely liberal mainstream media (LameStream Media) even though they are speaking for much of our country's population and speaking to what our country needs.
Very very depressing. What you describe is the transformation of the country from a first world nation to third world. Rich, poor, nothing in between.

Let's not forget the critical role of the (mainstream?, national?, traditional?, drive-by?) media in all this, shaping the views of politicians and the public, egging on the transformation described here in a million ways. How this was done, and is still being done is the biggest story never told.

And, if you want to look at how one group has been affected more than any other, look at African Americans. Adherence to policies supported by the Democrats in New York and elsewhere led to the almost complete destruction of the African American family. The result? Crime on an unheard of level, loss of will to be educated, gangs replacing family, leaders - Obama among them - only interested in riding the Democratic supported poverty gravy train. And Democratic sponsored legislation that led to millions of immigrants coming here and taking jobs traditionally done by African Americans, and benefits meant to assist African Americans.

Don't look for the media to tell the story of what Democrats have done to African Americans and its result, since media has adopted a misnamed policy known as 'political correctness' that prevents disclosure of what's going on. And media supports an extremely destructive "counter" culture. In the community you have deep anger, frustration and thanks to the media, puzzlement as to how it all went so wrong.

Looking back it can be seen that the Democratic Party has been the scourge of the African American community for a century and a half, and still counting - one wonders just how things would have turned out if instead of loyalty to the Democrats, African Americans had aligned themselves with Republican pro-family conservatives. Certainly, NOTHING could have been worse than what the Democrats have done - just when African Americans were ready to join the middle class, Democrats made sure that that would never happen - in the most cynical and depraved fashion possible.
Siegel is perceptive as usual. Too bad he's mostly preaching to the choir at CJ. If the NYTimes were serious about adding a serious conservative voice they'd hire Fred and replace the mushy, tedious pseudo-cons there now.
Big question. But answered succinctly and correctly. Which begs the question; now that the liberal elites have won the battles but lost the country, how do we reverse all the damage they've done during the past 40 years?
Siegel writes of highly-paid tenured college and university teachers. That is doubtful and misleading. The money that is missing and/or being laid on the backs of students, is to an immense percentage in services and administrators of services. You would never guess the salary of the UCLA Provost, a position invented some decades ago. It is supposed to be the Dean of the Deans and their Deaneries, Associate, Assistant and etc. And UC keeps raising tuition, since the State pays only per student head. 30,000+ students now; but a budget running over 5+ billion. Not from the taxpayer by law, you may be sure.
I agree with the article and have some experience in the area - I grew up in Buffalo, then a manufacturing mecca, my father made a nice living as a career engineer with GM, and, seeing the state's decline, I left the state in 1975, right after college.

I'm afraid an additional major factor is also in play - the US post-war industrial boom from 1945 to the early seventies was an anomoly caused by the US being intact at war's end, while Europe and Japan lay in ruins.

Without global competition, union labor monopolies drove wages and benefits up, creating a large blue-collar middle class. This began to unravel in the early seventies with globalization. Europe and Japan provided competition for skilled manufacturing and the third world for unskilled. The US wage and benefit structure could no longer be sustained.

US manufacturing automated, shifting labor demand to a few highly skilled workers and away from masses of workers with "strong bodies, weak minds". Likewise, seas of green eyeshade office workers were replaced by computers.

New York State, with its once large manufacturing base, was particularly hurt. Plus technology changes hurt major NYS manufacturers such as IBM and Kodak. And the poor business climate in the state, well documented in City Journal, did the rest.
Immigration and free trade are two of the culprits, for which the answers are as old as they are effective. Labor-saving technologies are a third factor for which there is a time-tested solution: the answer is a revision of our wage-and-hour laws to insure that ordinary laboring people share in the fruits of economic progress. A six-hour day with time-and-a-half for overtime would be a boon to working families.

Of course the obstacle in all three cases is the self-centered avarice of a few thousand of the wealthiest and most influential families in America, who make up what former NYT financial reporter David Kay Johnson dubbed the "donor class." The put family before country.

Though most readers of City Journal will disagree, it is time to take them on. Careers open to talent.
I don't buy the line that the Tea Party may be the savior of the American middle class.
Their behavior since the mid-term elections and during the recent debt-ceiling stand off has been distructive,intransigent and self serving.
The middle class lost itself. America still is a land of promise for those with the initiative to actively better themselves.

I meet such people all the time in Silicon Valley. They tend to have odd names, strange accents, and ask me "what is wrong with Americans?" I usually just respond "what are the words for SOLIPSISM, BORED, COOL, SELF-ABSORBED in your language?"

NO Americans ever contradict me, because they are all off on dates, sports-bar sessions, or hookups, rather than at these meetups from which will emerge the core IP of the next 2 decades' big winners. ON these shores, or back in their homelands, far from PC-creep elites, tenured faculty and ravenous unions.
The path to hell is paved with good intentions. A cliche to be sure, one I really am not interested in living through. Unfortunatly we seem to be at that point where half the electorate can vote themselves funds from the puplic fisc.

How does this get walked back?
I live in Wisconsin and according to the unions, they are saving the Middle Class from the depredations of rich, wealthy, millionaire and billionaire, Midas-like Republicans. At the same time the White House and other assorted Liberal types are calling us (I'm a Tea Partier) everything but our names.

All these years I've been flying under the flag of "Middle Class." How could I have been so duped? And where's my money?