America's Middle Class: In the Tank!
America's Middle Class: In the Tank!
Author: William Hughes
19 Oct 2005
Just about everyday, the news is bad! The economy is going to hell, the Iraqi War continues unabated and the energy crisis is shifting into high gear. One direct result: The Middle Class is disappearing. No Middle Class, no democracy! And yet, our people seem to be sleepwalking through it all. Maybe, Carl Jung was right when he said, “The people can’t stand too much reality.”
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Here's the opening scene: Two lobsters are found sitting in a restaurant tank trading philosophical observations. One pretends to be dead in order to avoid becoming a dinner entrée on that night's pricey menu. The other prods, "If you spend all your time playing dead, what’s the point of being alive?" That line speaks volumes of truth about our mostly mesmerized America and its refusal to face its grim reality, which includes our state of perpetual war hatched by the deranged Bush()-Cheney Gang; (1) a national economy going straight to hell on a runaway train called "Free Trade;" (2) and a fossil-fuel energy crisis that unless resolved will send us spiraling into another Dark Age! (3)
The lobster bit comes from a one-act comedy, entitled, "In the Tank," which has been staged in NYC, Los Angeles and in Maryland, too. Baltimore's Rosemary Frisino Toohey's play sounds like the present and dreadful state of Middle America. She told me on the set of the film, "Music High," where we were both working as extra actors, that her drama does have relevance to "the existential conditions" of the country in 2005, and that it owes much of its theme to the insightful works, along the same philosophical lines, of the celebrated Irish playwright - Samuel Beckett.
In any event, you simply can't pick up a newspaper in the U.S. on any given day without reading distressing news about our failing economy, and the ongoing, horrific consequences of the unjust and costly Iraqi War, and not feel fearful for the future of our Republic. (4) Take Oct. 18, 2005, for example. The "Baltimore Sun" carried a front page story, "Gathering in Sorrow," which told of the recent tragic deaths of three Maryland National Guard members in that Neocon-inspired conflict. Also, beginning on the front page of the "Sun," was an article about General Motors (GM) slashing health care benefits for hundreds of thousands of its United Automobile Workers (UAW) employees, and for retirees, too, of the company. This is the same GM which just closed its massive Broening Highway plant in Baltimore City. Meanwhile, Delphi, the largest U.S. auto parts supplier, has filed for bankruptcy protection and slashed jobs and wages. It operates 44 plants in the U.S. and is expected to close or shift 11 of them.
Actually, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that mandates that our nation must subscribe to these so-called "Free Trade" policies. If the Republic is for the benefit of all, why can't the economic system we adopt do the same? The "Free Trade" schemes, hatched by cunning agents of today's Plutocrats, (5) have devastated our once-vaunted manufacturing base, (6) sourced out some of our best paying jobs, created a huge national debt in the trillions of dollars for future generations to pay down, and are literally bringing our country to its knees. America is more vulnerable now to a take over by alien-based financial predators than at any time since its founding. What kind of national security is that?The U.S., under the reign of the corrupt Bush-Cheney Gang, must depend on foreign loans to stay afloat. (2) This is a prescription for national suicide!
It is an axiomatic principle that if you don't have a Middle Class, you can't have a genuine democracy! The Middle Class, like the fractious U.S. Labor Movement, (7) is fading fast from the scene, thanks to our insane "Free Trade" policies, which only benefit a select and greedy few. (3) These elitist-oriented policies have created economic and social havoc in our cities, towns and states (think "Rust Belt"). What the German and Japanese War Lords couldn't do us during all of WWII, these nation-destroying policies are now doing, with impunity. They must be ended! (6)
Take Manhattan Island for another visible example of what is happening to our America. In order to live there today, you mostly have to be either very rich or very poor, there doesn't seem to be any in between. Other areas of the country are starting to look the same as the ultra-affluent Manhattan, with the growth of gated communities in and around our major cities and the mushrooming of private police forces patrolling the tony neighborhoods. This gives way to a "Them vs. Us" paradigm, that is difficult to miss and if you aren't alarmed about that phenomena, then maybe you should be.
A decade or two ago, working class families from Baltimore City would regularly vacation for a week or two down at Ocean City, MD, a resort town, during the steamy summer months; or, up at Deep Creek Lake, in Western Maryland during the fall and winter season. Today, the cost of doing so has become too prohibitive for the vast majority of them to continue that kind of activity. And, who do you personally know that can afford to take their family to a Major League baseball game more than once or twice a year?
A few of the extra actors, that I talked with on the "Music High" film set, which was being shot in Baltimore City and environs last week, told me that they have to work a number of part time jobs simply to make ends meets. And, health insurance, or its lack, is another horror story. What a predicament! And, I'm afraid, these anecdotal examples that I've witnessed are becoming more and more the economic norm in the U.S., and not the rare exception.
As for the energy crisis, even before the damaging effects of Hurricane Katrina on the oil and gas industries, author James H. Kunstler, who penned the seminal book, "The Long Emergency," was predicting a "rough ride through uncharted territory" for us. (3) The average price at the pump for a gallon of gas this week is hovering around the $2.73 mark, 69 cents higher than a year ago. Kunstler, however, sees a day coming, not that far off either, when the fossil-fuel era will come to an end with disastrous results for America and its oil-sourced economy. He quoted Carl Jung, the famed psychologist, who said, "People cannot stand too much reality." Well, whether they can stand it or not, their "sleepwalking into the future," has a major nightmare or two in store for them; just as it does for that hapless lobster in the restaurant tank, who's pretending to be dozing off!
4. www.twf.org/News/Y2003/0722-Spies.html. Also, the cost of the Iraqi war is now at $202 billion, and rising, at the rate of about $7 billion a month. In addition, l,979 American military personnel have died in the bloody conflict and over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians have perished. Nevertheless, two Maryland-based liberals, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) and Rep. Ben Cardin (D-3rd MD), have shamelessly continued to vote to fund the war. In my opinion, this illegal and tragic war would have been impossible to start and to maintain without the conscious complicity of the gravediggers of our Republic, the members of the U.S. Congress! There are a few notable exceptions in that group. See, www.afterdowningstreet.org/ for the names of members of the U.S. Congress, who have been working hard to bring out the truth about how America was lied into the Iraqi War.
5. "Conspirators' Hierarchy: The Story of the Committee of 300," by Dr. John Coleman.
© William Hughes 2005.
William Hughes is the author of “Saying ‘’No’ to the War Party” (IUniverse, Inc.). He can be reached at liamhughes (at) comcast.net.