All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day
The Middle Class. Who’s in it? Who’s losing ground and falling into poverty, slipping from success into homelessness? The Middle Class, that’s who. For the last two decades, the banking industry has been spending tens of millions of dollars to find a way to have its cake and eat it, too.
The bankruptcy bill, the one the credit pushers have hustled past their representatives in the US House and are about to bribe the Senate to pass, the one Bush has guaranteed passage of when it hits his desk, is about to finish off what little is left of the Middle Class. When the credit mafia has this bill in hand, they’ll be free to hustle their 30% interest rates on anyone unlucky enough to either be uninformed or unlucky enough to be among the 100 million Americans who don’t have health insurance. Since this same group of crooks is enjoying the use of public cash for as little as 2%, this is the kind of profit margin the old, underground mafia used to call loan sharking. Once upon a time, the federal government occasionally put folks in jail for this kind of predatory activity. Unless the middle class comes to life and defends itself, the only folks going to jail will be ex-members of the working class on their way to debtor’s prison.
Yes, Virginia, debtors prison, that nasty old relic that our founding fathers brought with them from “Old Europe,” as Bush’s Rummy called it, is about to make a comeback if the credit pushers have their way. Even better, though, will be the practical slavery debtors will experience when the safety valve of personal bankruptcy is eliminated. Of course, the ruling class won’t be inconvenienced by any of this unpleasantness. Corporations will still be able to escape their debt through Chapter 11, 13, and other numbered Swiss and Maryland accounts. Executives will still be immune to the economic hazards their incompetent management creates, through the protection of corporate law. The only folks who will be affected by all the outrage caused by America’s out-of-control debtor problems will be the middle class.
Sometime in the middle of the 1970s, the Powers That Be decided that the country no longer needed to encourage the existence of a middle class. Once there was a VA Bill, which was intended to revitalize a middle class that had been destroyed in the Depression and create a skilled labor force. It was discontinued under the argument that the VA was intended to provide for veterans of actual wars, not a “minor police” action like the little thing going on in Vietnam. Since then, finances have tightened up, working wages have shriveled, prices on almost everything have inflated, and jobs have vanished. The term “full time job” is practically historic. The phrase “permanent job” is downright obsolete.
Being old enough to remember when a family could be supported by a single income, I wonder when the middle class will get tired of all this. I wonder what kind of poke with a sharp stick it would take to make the people who work for a living rise up against the ruling class who have taken them for granted? I wonder if Americans are worthy of the label? Are we Americans or are we Old Europeans? Do we remember that the American Revolution was, at the core, a class war and that any time we’re fighting a class war we’re being true to our democracy? Probably not. But maybe recreating slavery and debtors’ prisons will remind us who we are and what we have lost.