killing the middle class

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Salon's Edward McClelland calls October 1973 the month that killed the middle class, painting that time period as "a rude awakening for the entire United States:"

It was a watershed month for the American middle class. The Arab Oil Embargo would lead to the downfall of the American auto industry, whose generous wages and benefits set the standard for the entire economy. It was also the month of the Saturday Night Massacre, which made inevitable the downfall of Richard Nixon. The Watergate scandal resulted in changes to the American political system that put more power into the hands of lobbyists, political action committees and wealthy, self-funded candidates. [...] From the 1947 to 1973, the golden postwar quarter-century, hourly earnings grew at an average of 2.2 percent a year. Since 1973, they've been stagnant, barely keeping up with inflation, even as productivity has boomed.

He pinpoints the end of the United Auto Workers' strike on 23 September 1973 as "the day the American middle class peaked," and pivots to political drivers--beginning with Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre:

The Watergate Babies -- young Democrats elected to the House in the wake of Nixon's resignation -- took advantage of their numbers and of popular revulsion against The Way Things Are Done in Washington to break the power of long-serving committee chairmen who had controlled the flow of congressional legislation. The House became more democratic, but the nation didn't. Money replaced seniority as the most important factor in moving a bill. Lobbyists and political action committees began showing up in greater numbers to make sure members cast the correct votes, rewarding those who did, punishing those who didn't. The cost of campaigns increased.

This, of course, increased the political importance of money just as most people had less and less of it--just as the Reagan Revolution (and Citizens United) intended:

But from 1984 to 2009, the median net worth of a House member increased from $280,000 to $725,000, in inflation-adjusted dollars," while the median net worth of the average citizen remained stuck at around $20,000.

Politicians so far removed from the financial struggles of the middle class are less likely to govern with its interests in mind.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on March 7, 2015 10:55 AM.

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