Monday, October 1, 2012

Economics For The Working Class

 A web site called The Economic Populist is the source of a lot of what you've been hearing about economic inequality, from Occupy Wall Street encampments to the presidential campaign. A lot of what I've written on this web log came from the Economic Populist via other outlets that are reprinting and linking to its articles.

Class consciousness has come to America. The Ruling Class, the 1 percent, always was very class conscious. They act as a class, to protect their interests and privilege, but working Americans have tended not to. In the last part of the 1800s and early 1900s, immigrants from Europe and Latin America fostered a lot of class consciousness in America, and their thinking made it's way into New Deal legislation in the form of things like Social Security and Workman's Compensation, and eventually Medicare and Medicaid. By incorporating those ideas into the New Deal, President Franklin Roosevelt, a dues paying member of the Ruling Class from a wealthy old family, co-opted the movement begun by those immigrants, effectively undercutting the class consciousness that drove the popular uprisings of that day and was behind the growing Labor Movement, and had resulted in many Socialists being elected to public office in the United States.

After the New Deal was enacted class consciousness faded, and faded, until ultimately, working Americans were voting in large numbers for people like Ronald Reagan, and the Democratic Party, once at least nominally the party of the Working Class, put forth candidates like Bill Clinton, a Southern fiscal conservative whose success owed in large part to adopting many of the Republican Party's positions, such as "ending welfare as we know it," pushing treaties like NAFTA and promoting the World Trade Organization. The media became much more conservative, led by people like Rush Limbaugh who, any time anyone pointed out that the Ruling Class was having it pretty good, accused whoever said so of engaging in "class warfare," and the very idea of working people thinking as a class was demonized.

That began to change during the current economic crises. It had been patently obvious to some for some time that living standards for working people were in decline, and that wealth was being transferred upward at an increasing pace, and that government was enabling this process, but the economic crises and particularly the bailouts started bringing out in the open the fact that government served only the wealthy.

Then came Occupy Wall Street, which changed the conversation in America. Its use of the 1 percent/99 percent dichotomy provided an easy way for people to think in terms of class and to explain what was happening to them. President Obama quickly put an end to the physical occupation of parks and buildings, and the Occupy movement is still struggling to find other ways to express the discontent that made it happen in the first place, but the cat was out of the bag. Class consciousness had come to America.

President Obama quickly adopted the economic populism expressed by Occupy and its class conscious, 1 percent versus 99 percent language, and he and his campaign have relentlessly used that language to define his opponent Mitt Romney as a member of the 1 percent, which heretofore was a category of people Americans admired and respected. Romney, a lifelong 1 percenter, never had a chance at being elected president in the current, more class conscious climate, despite problems that otherwise would have doomed Obama's chances at re-election, such as long term unemployment of over 8 percent and the mass home foreclosures Obama has done nothing to stop.

But before Occupy there were people who had been trying to raise issues of class and economic inequality, and when the time was right for Occupy to emerge, these people had the ammunition ready. The work they had been doing, in breaking down and interpreting economic statistics in ways the mainstream media wasn't doing, and did not even want to, began to show up on Occupy signs and in the talk of Occupy members, and began to filter out into the population at large, until eventually even the mainstream media was forced to acknowledge that there was growing economic inequality in America.

A lot of that work was being done and is being done at The Economic Populist, where you'll find a lot of what you need to know to make sense of the American and world economies. It not only lays out the information we need to know but does it in a way that's easy to understand, free of the kind of economic jargon people who discuss economic issues often use to hide the truth. I've put a link to The Economic Populist web site in the right hand column, which will display the latest article. Other current articles include:



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