Huffpost Business
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Raymond J. Learsy Headshot

Decline of the Middle Class as Metaphor for the Decline of America

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

Over the last decade this nation has experienced a massive loss of productive and high value jobs in manufacturing, trade, and the professions sending many overseas and having many destroyed through the egregious misdirection of the self serving priorities of our financial institutions encumbering viable companies making real goods and services with untenable debt. Leveraging their assets in order to maximize profits for the financial engineers before flipping the company or taking it to market as an IPO. Too often the workers who made the company are left with little or nothing while the Wall Street "whiz kids" march off with a bundle having destroyed the vision, imagination and the hard work that went into creating these companies, to their benefit and to the detriment of its workers and society at large.

'Disproportionate' is the freighted word that shackles our society. Over the past few years some two-thirds of the gain in national income has gone to the top one percent of Americans. Mostly those in the financial industry harbored in such government protected entities as 'bank holding companies', part of something that has come to be ominously called the "shadow banking system". They bring virtually nothing viable to the economic landscape other than egregious speculation gorging on complex derivatives enriching the financial players, while through their malign impact, impoverishing great swaths of the American and world economy (i.e. betting on the collapse of the housing market). When these bets go dramatically wrong also collapsing the institutions that took the long side of the bets, they are then bailed out by the government making good the value of these 'bet' instruments whose function had no greater economic justification than a compulsive gambler's casino bets. And the grim irony, when the red comes up instead of black it's the local inhabitants of the casino's venue who are asked to pay to keep the casino afloat, while the casino lets the gambler keep his chips.

And the local inhabitants pay dearly. Their services are curtailed, their stores are forced to close, their local banks are driven to the edge, the value of their houses plummet or are repossessed. Not having insider status their financial assets deteriorate dramatically and even in desperation had they wanted to get back into the casino to try their own luck given their new world being bereft of all other opportunity, the house wont extend them credit. Its just as well, because they wouldn't have to see our compulsive gambler swilling Dom Perignon and downing a small mountain of Pate de Foie Gras after having feasted on Beluga Caviar at the casino's resplendent restaurant.

The gambler is there, and he or his proxy will always be there. And the town and its inhabitants, tattered and poorer are still there trying to make do as best they can and trying to contain their simmering anger at the unfairness of it all, not quite knowing what to do. Some joining in the regional meanderings of the Tea Party, or some equivalent movement that promises to address the clear wrongs that are being inflicted and tolerated by those in charge.

When all is said and done it becomes clear that it is the Casino that needs fixing because it is the Casino that the set the rules, it is the Casino that has permitted the outrages that have resulted in the destabilizing of the norm and sanctioning the unexpected and unfair.

Now with a small leap of imagination lets transpose our government for the nefarious Casino. Clearly it needs a new management or a new way of managing. What has come before is not functioning and major changes are needed. The local inhabitants need a voice in running the Casino, which in a sense has been denied them because they are unable to foot either the entry tab, or the needed cash to play at the tables. And that is what it has come to be, without access and without money no one at the Casino pays attention.

And that must now change for the inhabitants to ever again have a chance to rectify the wrongs imposed by the Casino's management and to fairly share in an equitable distribution of benefits should they accrue ahead.

As here, today too much of our political system is bought and paid for. Too much of our political system is self serving, responsive to the wings of our two parties and indifferent to the day to day concerns of middle Americans in spite of the incessant lip service extended to them. Yes, there is limp Wall Street reform, but no clawback of the exigencies that drove the nation to the brink. Yes there is a stimulus program, but faltering shamelesly through lack of clear direction. Yes, there is an alternative energy program without clear mandates nor meaningful results as the transfer of billions to the oil providers continues unabated. Yes, there are our soldiers dying in fragmented nation states far away without a modicum of sacrifice being asked of the home front. Yes, there are moneyed interests both domestic and foreign who have access to those who govern, without limitation and a shameless Congress ready to do their bidding in spite of the promises made in Presidential campaigns to curtail their influence. Yes we have courts of law who, through judicial minutiae rather than pragmatic sense of national welfare have given these moneyed interests even greater influence by striking down financial restraints on the powerfully funded in election laws, that make the middle class even more disenfranchised. Yes, there is talk of restraining government spending while special interests with access to government and its earmarks are encumbering the nation into ever greater indebtedness. Yes, while Main Street and middle class Americans continue to lose jobs, the pay checks on Wall Street and corporate boardrooms continue in their unabated and inflated manner while middle class Americans are absorbing pay cuts or shortened work weeks if they have any jobs at all, while teachers, the backbone of the nations future, police and firemen are losing their employment.

And so it goes, leaving the nation with a Frankenstein system whose core objective of governance has become self preservation of power and personal influence. This, while governing for the greater good of the nation has become a secondary and distant gerrymandered priority leaving the great body of the American electorate virtually without meaningful representation and forestalling and diminishing America's middle class' engagement with its government with every passing day.

And yet something is stirring. People throughout the land understand that the political system is broken, and Americans throughout the length and breadth of the country, that their government no longer speaks for them no matter which party happens to be in power. They feel the system is gamed from within, for and about those who have access and the money to follow through to assure their parochial interests are taken into account and acted upon. How those interests impact the greater good has become dangerously secondary. Checks and balances seem to have gone by the board long ago.

Grass roots movements are beginning to stubbornly emerge from the depths of these frustrations of which I have touched on only a few, as the list could go on almost endlessly. Yes, there are the Tea Parties, and they should be listened to in order to begin to understand how people feel. But out there something much more significant is beginning to take hold. A movement new to many, headed by people of impeccable credentials who are devising a program using the new age technology to bring all Americans back into the political process in a meaningful way and most importantly in a way that each American can once again feel that he/she as a citizen has the stature and sense of prideful responsibility that his vote was meant to convey unto him as a meaningful participant in the process of nationhood.

The new organization is called "Americans Elect". I don't want to steal its thunder because it can much better directly convey its goals and points of engagement. It has the potential of becoming the salutary wave of America's political future. Their contact information is given as Kahlil.Byrd@AmericansElect.org.