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September 17, 2011 - Ray Hall (Archive)
“By the year 2020, 80% of middle-class consumers will be outside the United States.” Deborah Wince Smith, President of the Council on Competitiveness:

Think about that comment from a pro-business organization spokesperson. Think of its implications for the United States. If that is true, and hard evidence supports it--it raises all sorts of questions. Not the least of which is where does that place Americans--not our children and grandchildren--but us, this present generation in the hierarchy of a world economy? Does that mean that America no longer has a middle class?

If we examine only one metric--income disparity--the income separation between the richest and the poorest--we find that 73 of 125 countries have a more equitable income distribution than the United States. As might be expected Denmark, Sweden, and Japan rank at the top for economic fairness, but even countries such as Germany, Pakistan, Austria, Hungry and the Czech Republic have less of an income divide than the United States.

An “Enquiring Mind” might ask when and how did this happen? Unfortunately, a band of thieves did not break into the United States on a dark and stormy night and carry off our valuables. No, we stood on the sidelines and we watched it happen before our very eyes and there were times when we even applauded our own desecration. The attack is relentless and we can see the disintegration of America’s middle-class everywhere.

Why did Ohio Governor John Kasich and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin and their Tea-publican allies ruthlessly attack the middle class by unilaterally killing collective bargaining? Why do these same people make it difficult for people to vote? Why did Wisconsin place a $28 fee on a state issued ID card then instruct its employees not to tell people that they can ask for a free ID? Why has Texas made it more difficult for the young, poor and the elderly to vote?

Why is there such a strong effort to take the public out of public schools--to replace free and public schools with private, charter and re-segregated schools? Why is public education and its teachers being attacked as ineffective, inept and incompetent? Why are two billionaire brothers who live in Colorado involved in financing a local school board election in North Carolina?

Why have we seen such an open and deliberate effort to “starve the beast” headed by Grover Norquist to deny our government revenues needed to build roads, bridges and highways? Why are programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid constantly broadsided by people like Congressman Paul Ryan who helped pay his way through college by drawing SSI for two years after his father died?

History is replete with the struggles of workers to gain fair wages, tolerable working hours and safe working conditions. From the Labor Crafts to the Iron Workers to the Carpenters to the Teamsters and Teachers--unions and collective bargaining, united workers--remains a leading reason that America developed a vibrant middle class.

Free and public education has been shown to be a pillar of democracy and a cornerstone of our freedoms. Of this there is no doubt, America would never have had, or will maintain, a middle class without free and public education. Programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid have done more to pull people from the throes of poverty and increase longevity than any program that has ever been seen on the shores of this nation. It isn’t that we can’t afford these programs--we can--there must be other reasons, and there are.

The signs are obvious to even the most casual observer: A permanent underclass is being created in America. The template for this movement is envisioned in the POWELL MEMO, also called THE POWELL MANIFESTO, a 1971 memo to Eugene Sydnor, Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The memo was written by Lewis F. Powell who at the time was a corporate lawyer and served as a board member on 11 corporations. The memo was written in August 1971 and just two months before President Richard Nixon appointed Powell to the Supreme Court. The memo was leaked, long after Powell’s confirmation to the court, to the late Jack Anderson, a renowned syndicated columnist.

The purpose of Powell’s memo was to create institutions and movements to counter public opinion, attack unions and education and to solidify corporate America’s role in determining government policy. According to analysis from the Powell Memo “influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Accuracy in Academe, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration's "hands-off business" philosophy.”

And what is our future? Judging from the last Tea-publican debate it is easier to understand that there are those who would willingly, if not gleefully, allow a person without insurance to die rather than become a burden on taxpayers. If raucous applause for mass executions was any indicator then there are those who would be happy to watch Christians thrown to the lions. However, if America’s middle class has been destroyed, our reality is much more grim. Will we be aware that there are those intent upon having even more riches and who will watch from the box seats as an increasingly poor population fights amongst ourselves? Can a poor populace fighting to feed our families crumbs from the rich man’s plate become an American spectator sport?


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