Scott Timberg pessimistically suggests that the US middle class will die with the Baby Boomers:
It's no secret that the American middle class has been on the ropes for a while now. The problem isn't just a crippling recession and an economic "recovery" that has mostly gone to the richest one percent, but the larger shifting of wealth from the middle to the very top that's taken place since the late '70s. [...]
It turns out that those concerned about a tattered middle class are right about most of it, but overlooking one thing: Boomers - or rather, a particular strain of Boomer and near-Boomer - are doing great. That is, if you were born in the '40s, you are going to be the last American generation to enjoy a robust safety net, and your gray years will be far more comfortable than those a decade older or younger.
We don't begrudge these people - our teachers and professors, our older friends, our parents and other relatives - comfort in their gray years.
"But you know what else the original Boomers brought us?" he snarks:
Despite their dabbling with progressivism and hippie utopianism, this group served as the shock troops for market-worshipping neoliberalism and the Reagan-Thatcher shift in the '70s and '80s. They gave us junk bonds and the privatization push and Gordon Gekko. Some of them went into the corporate world and started dismantling.
Let's hope they enjoy their retirements. But these gray Boomers and grayer Silents - not all of them, but enough to do substantial damage - put forces in motion that mean for the rest of us, the twilight years will be significantly less cozy.
In precarity rising, however, Aaron Benanav discusses socialists "insisting that there is nothing fundamentally new in the contemporary condition of the working class:"
If anything, they claim, we are returning to the sort of capitalism that prevailed during the laissez-faire era. Thus, in their view, the old strategies should apply more, not less. [...]
If it can be shown, on the contrary, that the conditions of the working class have radically changed, then we simply cannot re-apply the same inherited political strategies. Instead of justifying a return to old solutions, we will have to find new ones.
He notes that "job insecurity has always been a feature of working life in capitalist societies:"
The news media makes it seem as if new forms of insecurity are about to become the norm in the US, as if the majority of workers were about to end up employed at arm's length in the so-called sharing economy (driving cars for Uber or working as Taskrabbits). The fact is that ostensibly novel forms of precarity - such as working for temp agencies and sub-contracting firms or as dubiously "independent" contractors - affect, as yet, only a small minority of workers.
This so-called 'independence' should be read as "unpredictability," as it gradually leads to "the widespread collapse of workers' bargaining power:"
To what extent do conditions of work and struggle, today, actually mirror those of the Gilded Age? Then, as now, rates of unionization were low and limited to skilled workers. With notable exceptions like the IWW, unions generally ignored the semi-skilled and unskilled. Meanwhile, there was no safety net for workers thrown out of work.
Will history repeat itself, or merely rhyme?