Middle Class vs Working Class

I’ve noticed something strange about how politicians and pundits use ‘working class’ and ‘middle class’. I don’t hear the working class referred to much in the media, especially not by conservatives. Being working class has become considered a bad thing. Everyone wants to be middle class.

What bothers me about this is that the middle class is shrinking even as the poor increasingly become the target of those on the right. For instance, the Tea Party protesters are mostly older whites of the upper middle class and above (i.e., not the average American). These old white conservatives grew up during a time when there was much more opportunity of upward mobility. But since the beginning of Reaganomics, the wealth disparity has been increasing and so the numbers of the poor have been increasing.

One recent survey showed that most white Tea Party supporters don’t believe minorities are intelligent, hardworking or trustworthy. This is a new class war. As the middle class shrinks, the upper middle class sides with the rich and sees the poor as the enemy.

I don’t know if this will start to reverse again, but I don’t think these affluent conservatives want it to reverse because it was conservative policies that were a major contributing factor towards this concentration of power and wealth. Of course, they’d love to blame it on the liberals (such as how Hannity tried to interpret the documentary Generation Zero). The problem isn’t the evil government and even the Tea Party supporters don’t actually blame the government. Most of them are on Medicare and of course they support Medicare even though it’s one of the biggest government expenditures. Studies show that conservatives love big government when Republicans are in power. Even Tea Party protesters fondly remember George W. Bush and yet offer little support to Ron Paul who is a real small government fiscal conservative.

What the Tea Party protesters don’t want is a government headed by a Democrat president. The reason they give is ‘socialism’ which is simply a codeword for helping the poor and needy. It’s class war, pure and simple. It was funny when Glenn Beck came to realize the working class was the socialist enemy while listening carefully for the first time Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”. Interestingly, the only voice the working class has in the mainstream right now is Michael Moore who is a radical leftwing social justice Christian (or ‘commie’ for short).

It’s very odd because the Republican party used to side with the working class (the Reagan campaign even tried to usurp Bruce Springsteen’s message despite Springsteen himself being an ardent liberal). However, now that the working class has become a part of the growing poor, the affluent conservatives are trying to distance themselves from the working class even as they try to portray the Tea Party as working class populism. This means the real working class doesn’t have any direct political voice… which might be why, despite the conservative propaganda, the poorest of the working class tends to vote Democrat. So, the Tea Party is pretending to be working class which it isn’t while simultaneously pretending not to be Republican which it is.

I wish there was a real working class populist movement that would shake up politics. Even real libertarians can’t get a movement started without it being taken over by Republican operatives.

The worst part is that the mainstream media (especially Fox News) creates such a distorted picture of reality that the average person has a hard time telling which way is up. The poorest of the poor who lean towards Democrat are also the demographic that feels the most disenfranchised from the whole process and so rarely votes. For this reason, it’s in the interest of affluent conservatives to keep the poor disenfranchised. I saw a news report recently which was about a corporate memo stating in blatant terms that democracy of civic participation wasn’t beneficial to their profits. When Wall Street gives billions of dollars to all politicians on both sides, how can there be even the slightest hope for a real democracy that represents the average person much less those below the average.

The Tea Party protests the loudest, but it’s not the Tea Party supporters who have been hit the worse by the economic downturn. The hardest hit are the minorities, the poor, and the blue collar workers. Once upon a time, the working class fought hard to have a collective say in our society. It was from the battles with the wealthy elite that workers unions formed, but the conservative movement fought back and destroyed the power unions used to hold. Conservatives have the audacity to blame unions for helping to destroy the economy when it’s blue collar workers who are the ones who have lost their jobs more than anyone. Their jobs got sent overseas. but somehow the poor working class trying to feed their families is seen as the enemy of the affluent rightwingers.

I just don’t get it. The world would be a better place if the upper middle class whites combined their forces with the poor instead of sucking up to the wealthy elite hoping to get some scraps from the table. Since the middle class is shrinking and the economy is so uncertain, wouldn’t it make sense to make nice with the poor. Many poor working class people once thought of themselves as middle class as well, but times have changed. I remember hearing an interview of a woman who recently became unemployed. She said that she always thought the unemployed were just lazy, but she admitted that she had failed to understand how hard it can be when your job is taken away.

It’s a sad state of affairs. The poor are blamed for being poor. The unemployed are blamed for being unemployed. But oddly the conservatives blame all of the problems of Wall Street on the government which means blaming it on Obama and the Democrats. Why is it in the conservative mind everyone is to blame for their own misfortune accept wealthy capitalists? Why does the Tea Party criticize everyone from ‘socialists’ to immigrants and yet they’ve never protested Wall Street? Why?

 – – –

Note (5/27/10) – I just wanted to add one further observation that fits in with the concluding paragraph.

Why does a so-called “Libertarian” such as Rand Paul immediately defend BP even thought the irresponsible actions of BP will destroy many small businesses? I understand that Rand Paul is a rich white doctor and so doesn’t necessarily have much in common with the working class that comprise many family-owned fishing businesses, but I don’t understand why he would jump so quickly to defend BP when the average American has a very negative view of such mega-corporations.

Even though Libertarians like to portray themselves as representing the average American, it is obvious that many (most?) Libertarians and Libertarian think tanks don’t represent the average American. Certainly, Rupert Murdoch who is a self-identified Libertarian doesn’t represent the average American or average anything else for that matter. When push comes to shove, the Libertarians will side with big business… because often they own or work for big business.

8 thoughts on “Middle Class vs Working Class

    • Thanks for the compliment. This post was a summarization of all my recent thoughts. I’d been looking at a lot of data and I was getting a more clear picture about the demographics and political views of the Tea Party.

      I didn’t necessarily have any grand insights here that others haven’t also voiced, but I must say that most of the mainstream media has been sleeping on the job. Many have criticized the Tea Party for various reasons. Some of the criticisms are valid and some aren’t. Either way, what few see is the larger picture of how all the data fits together.

      The Tea Party is just a new manifestation of class wars and culture wars that have been going on for more than a century. However, there is something new that is happening. We are in the middle of a massive demographic shift that is shaking US society (and world society) down to its foundations. Who will be on top of the heap when it’s all over is hard to tell at this point, but I try to stay optimistic about a real populist movement forming.

      By the way, I briefly checked out your blog and you aren’t an American. I see you’re from the Island of Man. Sounds like an interesting place. It even has it’s own Wikipedia page. So, where are you residing presently?

      I always like hearing the opinions of those with a different perspective. I noticed you have a couple blog posts about America. I’ll check them out. I’m not an expert on politics, but I try to follow closely demographics as it relates to politics (along with it’s relation to culture and history). My knowledge about other countries is minimal, but my understanding is that much of Europe is also experiencing major demographic shifts. It seems that it might be a bit different than what is going on here in North America.

      Do you follow the polls and demographic data of Europe?

      I’m just curious…

      • I’ve been thinking too that the working class have disenfranchised themselves as they prefer to distance themselves from reality and buy into the media projection of themselves; everyone can spend, everyone has disposable income, everyone now has suffocating amounts of credit.
        America seems to be partly intoxicated with feelings of individualism, one which stops any real removal of class differences.
        Some pople I’ve been debating with on blogs seem to have a blanket ‘understanding’ of human behaviour, thinking that everyone has the same opportunities, the same ability to live the American dream. For me it beggers belief to say that say a single mother working 2 jobs should work harder, or is not entitled to some help. A few dollars out of people’s pockets to defend people’s right to live is not a negative thing!

        Yeah the Isle of Man is an interesting place with a lot of history behind it. Currently I’m in a city called Leicester studying at the University. I don’t really know too much about the shifts in demographics, but I see that people who would be considered working class living beyond their means without any thought of consequences.

        • To some degree the poor have disenfranchised themselves, but I suspect that they’ve been intentionally disenfranchised by those in power. It might be different in other countries such as the Isle of Man.

          In the US, we have a history of oppression from the very beginning (meaning when Europeans arrived). The first settlers were weatlhy elites who brought along with them an indebted servant class, many of them living their entire lives essentially as slaves. Of course, later on there was overt slavery.

          Even after slavery ended, oppression of blacks continued through various laws. Blacks did eventually gain more or less equal rights, but their entire culture and self-identify was destroyed which inevitably led to a less than functional lifestyle. Blacks were concentrated into inner cities and projects which could do nothing but disenfranchise them.

          Ever since Republicans took up the Southern Strategy, racial fear has been the way Republicans have dominated politics and dominated the cultural narrative for several decades. Reagan’s administration led to the breaking of unions and the disempowering of the working class, but it also led to the War on Drugs and the Tough on Crime policies which specifically targeted minorities.

          Studies have proven that the criminal system is racially biased. Minorites get worse sentences than whites for the same crimes. One in 200 US citizens is in prison (most of these being poor minorities). Many black ex-cons only recently got their voting rights back because the study proving racial bias was allowed to be shared in a court case.

          Another reason for disenfranchisement might be for the simple fact that the US is such a large country. Washington politics is something that happens far away for most people. Washington politics is a show people watch on tv. Corporations have so much power in the US that I don’t think we have a democracy anymore… or at least not on the national level.

        • America’s ideal of individualism is in many ways more of a Hollywood fantasy than a societal reality. The suburbias that were created in the 1950s did help to destroy a lot of the traditional community culture, but I’ve heard it argued that US is more community-oriented than Europe in certain ways.

          America’s tradition of community was based on pioneers. The early farmers who spread Westward couldn’t depend on government to take care of them and so the early pioneers relied heavily on their neighbors and family. The ideal of small town America actually existed widely up until mid 20th century. Small town America still exists but it’s become much more poor. The downtowns & public schools in small towns have been closing down.

          A part of America’s community orientation has to do with our being a very religious country. Churches have always been the center of our culture. There are very few towns no matter how small that don’t have at least one church.

          Also, in the midwest, public schools were always at the core of community. No matter where pioneers went they built churches and schools. Some of the best public school systems in the US are found in the midwest. This partly had to do with the liberal tradition of the Quakers who highly valued education. Religion and education have always gone hand in hand in the US, but both religion and education of early pioneers was very decentralized and operated on the local level.

          So, despite our Hollywoodized ideal of rugged individualism, you have to understand this ideal is built on a foundation of community. That foundation, however, has eroded quite a bit. But we Americans even in moving around a lot often try to re-create community. Americans love clubs and organizations of all sorts.

          That is part of the traditional conservative criticism of big government and socialism. Small town Americans like the idea of taking care of themselves and taking care of one’s neighbors. In the past, churches took care of the poor and homeless and churches often operated the schools. The fear is that when government takes over these functions it disempowers individuals and communities from solving these problems on their own.

  1. I just had one further thought about my post, but I’ll just add it here in the comments.

    I mentioned in the post that many of the poor right now used to consider themselves as part of the middle class. This is because the few decades prior to the ’80s saw the middle class grow. But when the factories got sent overseas, it became more difficult to move from working class to middle class. The increase in education costs has made this even more difficult.

    However, the affluent middle class doesn’t understand this because they’re disconnected from the changes that have impacted the lower classes. Part of the reason the affluent middle class has such a sense of privilege is because many of them came from working class backgrounds. If they worked hard and made it, then the problems of the poor aren’t their problems. If the poor weren’t lazy or otherwise inferior, they’d be affluent middle class as well. That is how these people think.

    Also, there are some affluent middle class who are just cynical or even fatalistic. They realize the upward mobility of a middle class society is disappearing, but they’ve got theirs and they just want to protect their own position in society. Not everyone can be saved. When the class wars start, the affluent middle class hope the wealthy will protect them from the violent revolts that will erupt among the poor and unemployed.

    So, it’s not that the affluent middle class don’t care about the poor and unemployed. Many of them still have family members who are blue collar. They don’t wish ill towards the lower classes, but neither do they trust the lower classes. They fully realize how close they are to the bottom. The wrong shift in politics or a full economic collapse and they too could easily fall down into the peasant class.

    The Tea Party protesters are genuinely scared. Even though the poor working class has more reasons to be scared, the poor working class are used to being forgotten about and so they’ve become apathetically disenfranchised. However, the affluent middle class has real political influence and they know how wield it.

    The media pays attention to the affluent middle class because this is the demographic with money and so pandering to this demographic brings the advertising money. This is why the Tea Party has received more media attention that protest movements that were larger.

  2. Everyone always makes this debate into an ideological war between international socialists and global capitalists when, in reality, those two factions are both part of the same machine. Only Nationalism truly stands up for the working class. Only Nationalism truly represents Vox Populi in the USA. Not fascism, mind you. Fascism is socialism on crack. True Nationalism teaches self-empowerment, not self-mortification in the name of altruism. That would be the philosophy of Mao and Pol Pot, both enemies of Nationalism. In essence, one cannot be a Nationalist without also being a rugged individualist. Nazis, for all their pretense of strength, we actually worthless weaklings because they defined strength in terms of altruistic sacrifice on behalf of an idolatrous state. May their remnants be rendered to ash and scattered to the wind in the fires of Helter Skelter.

    Speaking as one of the disenfranchised working poor, I most definitely resent the status quo. But I resent socialism and internationalism even more. In fact, internationalism IS the status quo. Internationalism, enabled by globalists and internationalist bankers (including but not limited to George Soros), is what has driven down the American standard of living and the machine will not be satisfied until that standard of living is comparable to that of Cambodian peasant-slaves circa 1975.

    Ave Jvstitia. Ave Exterminance. Hoc est bellvm.

    • I must admit that I’m not entirely certain about what you are responding to in my post or in my comments. I don’t think I mentioned anything about socialism and fascism, nationalism and internationalism. And I don’t understand the context of your thinking, the assumptions you are making, the sources of your ideas.

      You seem to be using these words somewhat idiosyncratically, but I think I understand your meaning. It’s hard for me to say what I might agree or disagree with. I wouldn’t use these terms the way you are defining them.

      I don’t see socialism and fascism as having much to do with each other. It may be true that fascists often use the rhetoric of socialism… just as Republicans often use the rhetoric of libertarianism and Democrats often use the rhetoric of progressivism. I prefer to distinguish rhetoric from actions because the two often don’t coincide.

      I’m also a bit confused by how you are using the term ‘nationalism’. Your definition doesn’t fit the common dictionary definition. It sounds like you mean nationalism as a republic based on a constitution of civil liberties with emphasis on a conservative interpretation of classical liberalism. I’m not saying such a thing is a bad idea. It sounds like it could be a basically good vision of society. My only contention is that your use of terms might be so idiosyncratic as to be confusing to others.

      I’m further confused by your use of ‘socialism’ and ‘internationalism’ in the context of your resenting them.

      Many local grassroots organizations have elements of socialism. Your local food co-op is a mild form of socialism. Many churches operate to varying degrees on socialist principles and/or procedures. There are intentional communities around the country that operate according to socialism on the small-scale.

      As for internationalism, the only way to avoid it would be to become entirely isolationist to the point of ending all interactions with other countries (military, trade, immigration, etc), just close down the borders and deny any influx of people, goods, and media. I don’t think that is what you mean, but I’m not sure.

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