Friday, January 15, 2016

The Power of Myth

0.1% of Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 90%. It's time to stop saying "middle class"; it does not exist.In his State of the Union Address Obama said:
“Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction. What is true — and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious — is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit and haven’t let up. Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.
All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing. It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to. And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.”

The fact that Obama used the word “workers” at all is interesting, rather than the usual 'hardworking families' (although that also appeared). For many politicians in the US there aren't supposed to be any workers in America as everybody (except the filthy super-rich) there is supposed to be middle class. American politicians constantly speak of the middle class. But what does it really mean? This question is rarely asked. What exactly is the middle class? Politicians constantly insist that the U.S. is the “leader of the world,” but why does this matter if it does not translate into positive gains for actual working-class citizens? The U.S. may be the most powerful country in the world, economically and militarily speaking, but it does not bring with it a high standard of living or ensure well-being for citizens, and ultimately does not matter. It simply benefits the rich, and the rich alone.

A new study suggests that the U.S. hardly even has one. More than half of Americans — 56 percent, to be exact — have less than $1,000 combined in their checking and savings accounts, according to a recent survey, Forbes reported. This is to say, most Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Furthermore, almost two-thirds of Americans — 63 percent — do not have enough in their savings for an emergency. A substantial majority of Americans would need to borrow money if faced with an unexpected expense.

Roughly 15 percent of Americans live in poverty — 46.7 million people, in 2014. Close to one in every four American children suffers from poverty. And, among black and Latina/o Americans, the economic hardship is even worse. This poverty has tangible, evident implications. It means that the U.S. has the sixth-highest hunger rate out of all of the economically developed OECD nations. In other words, more people go hungry in the U.S. than do in Poland and the Slovak Republic. Slightly fewer people go hungry in the U.S. than in Estonia. And hunger is much less widespread in the poverty-stricken nations of India and Brazil.

Income inequality is at the highest it has been since 1928 — the eve of the Great Depression – and it keeps rising. Obama admitted in his final State of the Union address that Wall Street was responsible for the 2008 financial crisis, but Wall Street is precisely the one who benefited from it. None of the banking executives who crashed the economy and robbed millions of American were punished. And, in the eight years since then, income inequality has only continued to grow.

The richest 0.1 percent of Americans have almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. 160,000 families have as much money as around 290 million Americans.
Globally, the richest 1 percent is estimated to have more wealth than 99 percent of the people on the planet. Put a bit differently, 7.23 billion human beings have less wealth than 70 million.

“Middle class” is an ideological term, not an objective one. Terms like “middle class” simply serve to normalize the myth of the American Dream. If most Americans do not have any savings, and this number is rising, the term “middle class” is useless. The media may try to redefine it, but, if a majority of a country’s citizens live paycheck-to-paycheck, then they are as Obama said workers. It is time to admit it: There is no middle class; there is only the working class and the ruling class — the economic elite.

Society is already divided into two classes: those who, not owning means of production, are forced to sell their labour power, whether for a wage or a salary, to live and capitalists, owners of the means of production and employers of wage labour. The working class are paid to produce goods and services which are then sold for a profit. The profit is gained by the capitalist class because they can make more money selling what we have produced than we cost to buy on the labour market. In this sense, the working class are exploited by the capitalist class. The capitalists live off the profits they obtain from exploiting the working class whilst reinvesting some of their profits for the further accumulation of wealth. This is what we mean when we say there are two classes in society. It is a claim based upon simple facts about the society we live in today. This class division is the essential feature of capitalism. It may be popular to talk vaguely about various other 'classes' existing such as the 'middle class', but it is the two classes defined here that are the key to understanding capitalism. Members of the capitalist class certainly know who they are.

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