Monday, January 26, 2015

Upstairs Downstairs: The new American class-system economy

     This has been a busy month for me, including helping my daughter prepare for the birth of my next granddaughter, getting a bunch of surgical procedures out of the way so I can be bionic by the time I become our new arrival's caregiver after her new mum goes back to work, worrying about the role of the CIA in creating radical "Islam," and still struggling through Thomas Piketty's 600-page book on modern economics.  And the more that I read in "Capital for the 21st Century," the angrier I get. 

     According to Piketty, Europe and America have traditionally been divided into two basic classes for a long long long time:  The "haves" and the "have-nots".  Traditionally, the "haves" have owned the capital (most of it inherited) and the "have-nots" have provided the labor.  For many past centuries, it had been pretty much upstairs and downstairs in Western economies, just like on TV.

     But then two world wars came along and totally shook up these two formerly set-in-stone class lines, creating a unique glitch in time wherein a new large middle class was suddenly born -- in both Europe and America. 

      According to Piketty, this was an almost-unique experience in Western economic history -- where the wealthy were taken down a notch and the poor were elevated up.  However, this "accidental equality" was too good to be true for long, and the wealthy classes fought back and the dream died -- and so here we are, back again, deja vu, once more playing at "Upstairs Downstairs" like our ancestors have all done since even before the fall of Rome.  Sigh. 

     Dontcha just wish that Piketty is wrong about the recent disappearance of the new middle class?  But unfortunately he's not.

     And here in America, those of us who grew up being middle-class and who liked being relatively free of money worries are now suddenly appalled at this sudden change in our status from "Almost Upstairs" to "Definitely "Downstairs" because, silly us, we hadn't realized that our relative economic freedom was only just a temporary economic glitch. 

      I myself can remember when I used to only have to work weekends and summers in the post office in order to make enough money to put myself through graduate school at Cal -- and with no student loans.  And before that, back in the early 1960s, I lived in New York City for two whole years with only an occasional part-time job for income.  Those days are totally long gone!

     But, even more important, what is the average American today doing in response to this tragic new economic turn of events as he or she watches his or her financial status erode from home ownership to unemployment or worse?  Do we protest?  Demand justice?  Seek redress?  Try to end corporate corruption?  React logically to this dreadful new "Upstairs Downstairs" situation? 

      Hell no.

      Most Americans today do the unthinkable instead.  He or she sides with the wealthy, sides with the bankers, sides with the weapons manufacturers, sides with Wall Street and War Street and sides with the top 1%.

      Almost no one in America today (except for me of course) has started pointing his or her finger at the wealthy who have just stolen all of our stuff.  No, he or she is too busy pointing his or her finger at his or her neighbors instead -- or at those poor unfortunate souls who are lower down on the economic and social totem pole than him (or her).  It's like the butler getting yelled at by his greedy-bastard master and then the butler taking it out on the scullery maid and kicking her backside good -- instead to telling the greedy-bastard master where to shove it instead.

     Excuse me for having to state the obvious here, but it is the backsides of the inappropriately wealthy that we all should be kicking right now; the insanely wealthy billionaires who are stealing our jobs -- and our souls.

     So what can we do about it now, in order to get back to the economic Eden that was just stolen from us by a handful of greedy rich dudes?  This is what all patriotic Americans should be asking ourselves right now.  First, we could raise tax rates on the wealthy to match ours -- so that they can give at least a little back to the country that has given them so much in the first place.  That would be a good start.

    Then we could refuse to vote for anyone who represents banksters, weapons manufacturers, feudal-lord wannabees, billionaires or jerks.  We could actually do that.  All it would involve would be doing a little research on electoral candidates' funding and priorities, plus using a little anger finally being directed appropriately.  And making sure that every American votes.  How hard could that be?

PS:   And speaking of childbirth, according to Women's Weekly E-News, "
The United States ranks 60th in the world when it comes to maternal mortality, according to a 2014 report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, below almost every other developed nation.  And the U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than most other developed nations, according to the CDC."

    This means that being preggers here in America is much more risky than in sixty other developed countries.  In America today, it really sucks eggs to be a woman of childbearing age.  How "Upstairs Downstairs" is that!  So if you want to become pregnant (or not become preggers at all for that matter), it would be best to move to Iceland or Singapore or Estonia immediately.

PPS:  Europe is also having an "Upstairs Downstairs" moment right now for a different reason; because unemployed refugees from the Middle East are swarming into the EU by the millions and lowering wage prices there a lot -- as a clear result of having allowed the US, the UN, the UK and NATO (an alphabet soup that always spells trouble wherever it is served) to kick that particular Middle Eastern hornets' nest again and again and again.

      And now, Europe, you need to get ready for a whole new swarm of unemployed "Downstairs" immigrants about to descend on you from Ukraine too, because the US, UN, UK and NATO alphabet soup has also been kicking the hell out of Kiev and Donbass this whole past year as well -- and Ukraine's borders are a hecka lot closer to Europe than Iraq's.  Don't say you haven't been warned.

     In terms of nurturing and protecting the nascent middle classes that Piketty described, the US, UN, UK and NATO have clearly screwed up.

     To quote Syrian president Bashar Assad on the subject, "[America,] you are the greatest power in the world now; you have too many things to disseminate around the world: knowledge, innovation, IT, with its positive repercussions.  How can you be the best in these fields yet the worst in the political field?  This is a contradiction.  That is what I think the American people should analyze and question.  Why do you fail in every war?  You can create war, you can create problems, but you cannot solve any problem.  Twenty years of the peace process in Palestine and Israel, and you cannot do anything with this, in spite of the fact that you are a great country."

     Our "alphabet soup" has clearly screwed up.