In the recent mid-term elections in the United States political debate excluded two enormous topics of obvious import: the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the plight of the poor and middle classes in the United States.
The economy was discussed but not its real impacts on real people now short of resources and whose life chances are declining. Rather, we were treated to debates about tax cuts, deficit reductions, "big government" and "socialism."
Why should these discussions take on these contours?
We will have a look at the middle classes and the working poor in the American political landscape and how they place themselves in the political spectrum and why.
We shall also compare that to the multi-party system and the coalition patterns extent in Europe. There we find distinctly different political patterns and outcomes. How do the two systems compare and why and with what political outcomes.
Let's start with a quote from two European scholars who ask the questions; do political coalitions between the middle class and the working poor explain the nature of political structures in Europe? Why are there no coalitions between the poor and the middle class in the United States?
The scholars Iversen and Soskice are quoted from a paper given by Phillip Manow in Seoul, Korea in March of 2007 gives us some clues as to why such coalitions exist in Europe but not in the United States. See link below.
Here is a longish quote from that paper.
"Iversen and Soskice start from the basic observation that in multi-party systems the left is in government more often whereas the right more often governs in two-party systems. Why is this so?
In a multi-party system the lower and the middle classes together can tax the rich and share the revenue. In a two party system the middle class can either vote for a centre-left party or a centre-right party. If the left
governs, the middle class has to fear that the left government will tax both the upper and the middle class for the exclusive benefit of the lower class. If a right party governs, the middle and upper class will not be taxed and redistribution will be marginal. Therefore, in a two-party
system the middle class has the choice either to be taxed and to receive no benefits, or not to be taxed and to receive no benefits. Obviously, it would prefer then not to be taxed.
From this simple and highly stylized account it is clear that the middle class will more often vote together with the lower class in multi-party systems – or to be more precise: middle class parties will more often enter into coalitions with lower class parties in multi-party systems than in two party systems.2"
Underlying this analysis is a stark premise: Politics is about money and resources--who gets what, when, where and how.
Another premise, equally important and less apparent, seems to be that prosperity must be shared for a culture to flourish. A peaceful means to accomplish this must be identified and institutionalized. Otherwise, the rich will greedily absorb a disproportionate share of everything, refuse to give it up, and the society ultimately is thrown into riots, anger, social dislocations, revolution and all things bad and not so incidentially, the destruction of the middle class.
Well lets see how these principles do and do not apply to America, especially since at this critical juncture, these are precisely the questions which our country now confronts, even as political discourse ignores them altogether--if we take the last election as an indicator.
Next time. Who is getting what, when, where, why, and how in the United States.
Nov 29, 2010
I make the argument that the systematic attack on the middle class in this country involving so-called deficit cut backs, privatizing social security, cutting medicare, cutting education spending, cutting wages, contemplating millions of unemployed indefinitely, also constitute opportunities. There are now opportunities for the middle class, in seeing itself becoming lower middle class, to begin to see and form a coalition with the working poor classes and to see it has common interests with even the current poor.
From this an ethos of common prosperity can emerge and the country can get back on the right track again.
Having most wealth the hands of the rich is an unsustainable idea.
This opportunity for the middle class to finally see that all the money in this country is money they themselves supply to Wall Street institutions who translate those funds into political power which has been used to ransack that very same middle class--taking from them in just three years, their home values, their savings, their jobs--and their futures even unto retirement--all under the guise of deficit reduction. This is a middle class holocaust.
This is and will become even more devastating. It in fact, it turns America into a true welfare state: The rich controlling most wealth in a Neo-Dickens world where most will have to depend upon alms from a government controlled by those very same rich classes.
Fish are having trouble identifying water.
More tomorrow- where we will focus on "deficit reduction" and the agenda behind it.
Dec 4, 2010
Actually I started another blog on deficit reduction on this site. Refer to that blog.