The middle class is now the new poor

By Admin Thursday October 18 2012 in Opinion
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Fifty or 100 years from now, the history books will tell stories of the United States’ transition from being the world’s pre-eminent powerbroker and stories of the rise of the “Asian Tiger”, meaning China, as well as India.


They will lay out how in the 1980s the rise of “Reaganomics” – the promise that if you give capitalists free reign to regulate themselves, their profits from free market activity would “trickle down” to the masses and everyone would benefit from the prosperity of the “one per cent” – was the basis for the eventual weakening of U.S. political and moral ground.


So it could no longer say to the world, “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore…send these…”


In the tension between democracy and capitalism, capitalism is winning, and communism has no say in the new global free market economy.


In the past couple of decades the Chinese population didn’t suddenly surge to become the largest on the planet and thus the largest market. Rather, a stream of international free trade agreements and the Chinese government’s decision to take on its own form of market capitalism has shifted the balance toward a global capitalist model. Coupled with the dismantling of the Soviet Union, there is no longer any communist economy of significance anywhere.


And any dictatorship of note – the one in Burma/Myanmar being a good example – is being pulled into the vortex of the capitalist ranks. It seems these days the primary job of government is to represent the interests of capitalist investors. Or call them the free market, finance capital or neo-liberals. Whatever new term there is, a capitalist by any other name…


Where there are mining profits being eyed by corporate interests you will find top-level Canadian politicians ensuring Canada’s presence. Hence when Prime Minister Steven Harper was in Congo recently for a meeting of francophone countries, he made it a priority to refer to mining interests. When Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, visited Burma in March it wasn’t just a goodwill mission and sightseeing tour.


The surge in aggressive capitalism has to be a matter of concern for the rest of us because it is this rabid cancer that is now rendering the middle class into the new poor.


In this U.S. presidential campaign the contenders are using the term “middle class” the way Toronto Mayor Rob Ford likes to use “taxpayers”. This is the electorate that liberal politicians especially now care about.


Member of Parliament, Justin Trudeau, in announcing that he would be seeking the leadership of the federal Liberal Party made a point of drawing in the middle class. And in the U.S. at this time, there is a relaxation of the term “taxpayers”. Now, we hear about concern for the weakened middle class.


The decimation of middle class economic power is not just an American phenomenon. We face the same contagion here in Canada, some regions being more susceptible than others, meaning Ontario. The Occupy Movement, including the Toronto chapter, which just marked its first anniversary, was at its core a protest of frustration by members of the newly poor middle class.


The free market cannibalism that now makes it okay to weaken the earning power of low-skilled workers who used to earn a middle class wage in manufacturing and on assembly lines is now also a tactic of politicians as they attempt to stymie public workers unions and otherwise economically disempower the middle class. The Ontario government’s attempt to correct its deficit by raiding the salaries of public sector workers is part of the culture vulture that is currently in effect.


A recent report by University of Toronto professor, David Hulchanski, finds that many current middle-class neighbourhoods in this city will shift to become poorer by the end of the next decade. Hulchanski sees a pattern of 60 per cent of the city shifting to becoming poorer by 2025.


So, for those who didn’t get it before, this is where the 99 per cent is headed. Here is why supporting the Occupy movement matters.


A note on an honour for the ‘Bush Doctor’…


Twenty-five years after he was killed during a break-in at his home in Jamaica, the pro-Africa anthems for equal rights and justice of Peter Tosh, one-third of the landmark reggae group The Wailers, remain very potent. Now he has been honoured with the Order of Merit by Jamaica’s government.


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