True? Of course not, it’s a fairy tale we tell ourselves. Mores to the point, it’s a fairy tale that has been told to us, taught to us, and pushed on us to hide the truth.
The truth is we have ALWAYS been a country of classes. From it’s very inception America has had classes. Voting was restricted at the earliest times in our history to landed persons, in other words, you couldn’t vote if you didn’t own land. Moreover, only white men could vote. Blacks, who were accounted not citizens were prohibited because they were permanently defined in the CLASS called Slave.
Women were not allowed to vote of course, they were in the CLASS permanently defined as Not Men. By the time of the Civil War, we allowed most white men to vote propertied or not.
There has always been an UPPER CLASS in America, or there soon was. The rich are those who could afford to hire or enslave others to do their cleaning and planting, and lawn care, same as they do now.
This reached its nadir during the time called the Gilded Age, when a small percentage of families and individuals were exceedingly wealthy while the balance of the population was known as WORKING POOR. There was no middle class (the very name that we so casually throw about denotes of course, our understanding that class has always been a part of our existence.). The WORKING POOR was only so named because of course there was the POOR, those who by circumstance were unable to work and thus relied on charity for their very survival.
We were taught in our schools, and still are for that matter, that we aren’t a class society. We certainly aren’t in the tradition of Old Europe. We have no kings, no lords, no feudal serfs. But we did have their equivalency in the guise of the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, the Vanderbilts, Waltons, the plantation master, and so forth. We had the equivalent of the serfs in the tenant farmers and the mine workers who were held in virtual bondage by land owners and mine owners. There was the company town where every dime “earned” was returned to the boss in the form of rent and food.
What we were told in our schools was that our classes were fluid, namely that with hard work and determination, one might rise from the working poor to the middle class (a class created almost single-handedly by Teddy Roosevelt when he broke up the monopolies and helped workers finally make some decent gains in wages). Nobody I know wanted to be rich in the classical sense, they just wanted the think of themselves as middle class, people who worked and came home to nice homes, people who could afford to send their kids to college, people who could take a vacation each year, maybe have a cabin at the lake. Simple stuff, really. The stuff that the rich take for granted.
Today, the Republicans would take us back to the Gilded Age, the age where there was (until today) the greatest discrepancy between the very rich and the rest of us. They would do this in the name of economic progress. Of course they are right. They would and are making very good progress. It’s just that the rest of us aren’t. And they have worked extremely hard for decades and decades to maintain the mantra that we are not a class society, and that you too can achieve what they have.
We have always been a country torn between our sense of community, our desire to journey together in equanimity, and our urge to be individuals (rugged actually) and our work ethic forged in the Protestantism of the 17th century. It was an invention of the late medieval period but given structure by Max Weber, German economist, and consisted of diligence, punctuality, deferment of gratification and primacy of the work domain. What a gift to the wealthy business entity!
They (the rich) have pushed that notion as the “way to get ahead” for, as I said, decades. And it has not been for my benefit, or yours, but theirs. True enough, they have always been willing that you and I rise, as long as we did not rise too far. Stories of how the nouveau rich struggled to be accepted by the Old Money are hysterical, especially so those of the rube Texas oil millionaires and their uncouth behaviors.
But things have changed. Too many, far too many, worked hard yet achieved but a modicum of success. The small business owners were and remained just that–small. And no matter how much they worked, they were barely able to leave their kids a better life. The corporations arrived. Borders and Barnes and Noble put the small book seller out of business. Wal-Mart put the mom and pop stores out too. And the small pharmacists, and the small dress shops. And on and on.
The government stepped into the breach and provided a stable ground to land on. Social security, medicare and Medicaid helped out the older Americans who worked hard all their lives yet couldn’t make a go of retirement except in dire poverty. As the industrial machine merrily ground on, millions were left behind. Women, raising children alone only got little jobs with low pay. Again the government intervened with assistance for children, Head Start, free school lunches and so on. The poor kid had no hopes for college, and the government stepped in and offered grants, the same help it had offered returning veterans from war.
This has all angered the rich, who want more of the pie, as always. They started through their minions (Republicans and Democrats), to secure a redress of their grievances. The old meme of work ethic is pushed relentlessly, although it of course fails for most people most of the time (small gains aside). They upped the ante by pushing the nonsense that they are “job creators” (sit in at any board meeting and wait for the topic–how can we create more jobs?) and that they are the “makers”. They pushed the utter crap that everyone who receives government benefits of any kind is a “taker”, a non-contributor, a vermin to be eradicated.
They push it for their own benefit and they of course convince the small business owner that it should be their mantra too. They continue to entice them with promises that if not for the government and their taxation policies against YOU little business, you too could be like us, and vacation on your yacht off your favorite Caribbean island. They tell you that if it were not for “government handouts” you too could be skiing at Vail and gazing from a lovely chalet. They teach you to use this crappy mantra against others, and you do, snarling out your anger (deep down you know the truth that you have been HAD), spitting out “takers” in venom and sitting in your white shirt of self-generated superiority.
You are us, little business owner, you just can’t bear to accept it. And they are the ones who have divided us into classes far more than the rest of us who simply want a fair chance. Their classes are them (1%) and us (99%). I know you hate to think of yourself this way, but you are only deluding yourself, and we frankly feel pity for you. We got it long ago. But you go on. Keep carrying the water bucket for the rich. Oppose everything that would make them pay their fair share, and deny help to your brothers and sisters who believe it or not do raise families on the crummy minimum wage that you claim we should scrap all-together. Yeah, let us return to the $5 buck an hour day. You make your corporate masters so very happy.
And while you’re at it–BITE ME.
You sicken me with your callous indifference to reality, all so you can pretend you are something you will never be.
- Small Business Owners Losing Sleep but Not Losing Hope in 2012 [INFOGRAPHIC] (hiscoxusa.com)
- Why Next to No Political Reaction to the Second Gilded Age? (economistsview.typepad.com)
- DeLong: Inequality: Living in the Second Gilded Age (economistsview.typepad.com)
- Usurious Credit and Debt as Our Prison Cages (beavercountyblue.org)
- Redistributing the Wealth (From Bottom to Top) (caelumetterra.wordpress.com)
- Republican “class warfare” BS (theshadowraith.wordpress.com)