The Ties that Bind: Destroying the Middle Class

Posted: January 24, 2011 in AZ, Class Warfare, Education, Gov. Jan Brewer, Rep. Trent Franks, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Jon Kyl, The Economy

Congratulations Arizona–We’re #2, we’re #2!!!!  In 2009 we had the second worst poverty rate, behind only Mississippi.  That’s some claim to fame.

Don’t let anyone fool you….local and state government affect our pocketbook problems in a more day-to-day fashion than the Federal Government.  So when local officials start blaming “socialishm” from that dang nab “Kenyan muslim communist” in the White House, you should understand their protestations are bunk.  I think it’s fair to say that we owe this outstanding news to Republican leaders all over the great state of Arizona.  After all, they’ve been in charge of the state since the beginning of time.  Some national Republicans are trying to take credit for the economic recovery.   Sen. Kyl is one of them.  He is claiming that since good reports have been coming out since the GOP took over the House, they deserve the credit for the uptick.  He’s failing to note that they’ve only had control of the House for 19 days and reports of improvements have been reported for about the past year (according to NABE, National Association for Business Economics).   This earns Sen. Kyl yet another award of the moniker:  AZ Asshole.  With leaders like Brewer and Kyl, what could possibly go wrong!?

Let me count the things that could go wrong….starting with proposals coming out of the Governor’s Office.  Reports say that she’s proposing to ensure even more poverty in the coming year.  She plans to accomplish this by taking health care away from 285,200 individuals in Arizona.  This is how Gov. Brewer is attempting to balance the state’s budget–on the backs of 5,200 mentally ill citizens, at the expense of 96 terminally ill patients who need organ transplants and to the detriment of another approximately 280,000 poor individuals.

How many of these individuals are part of middle class families in AZ?  Because the middle class is on the brink of collapse here.  Before the crash, many in the middle class lived from paycheck to paycheck, even with two earners.  While they could enjoy going out for dinner or a movie once in a while, they had little saved away for tough times.    After the crash, those households, many of whom had at least one person lose a job, are much worse off.  Too many families are having to default on loans and credit cards to ensure that their family can eat.  Most have simply stopped going to the doctor and dentist for preventative care.

While one could rightly argue that these people should have been more prudent–it isn’t fair to argue that they shouldn’t expect some kind of social safety net.  Doesn’t every other industrialized nation in the world have some form of social safety net to assist families that experience hardship?  Don’t citizens expect to receive services for the taxes they pay to government?  Otherwise, why pay taxes at all?

The exchange between the individual and the government and the understanding of the obligations on both sides is called the “social contract”.  We all understand it but most people aren’t aware that it has a name.  In Arizona, the contract is broken because the government side has failed recently and if Gov. Jan Brewer has her way, it will only get worse.

Why does this matter, you may ask?  Well, the survival of our country (of any modern, representative government really) depends on the parties in this “contract” to do their part.  In order for the contract to work the people must understand how the contract works and their role in it and that comes with education (which I won’t address here but have addressed in previous blog posts).  A representative democracy cannot survive without an educated populace (if you don’t agree, your argument is with Thomas Jefferson, not me).  In terms of the social contract, the middle class is important because they are the stable “middle” that will resist change and destabilization so long as the status quo is in their favor.  In other words, so long as they stay middle class and their quality of life is not significantly impacted, they will support things as they are.  The values that say, ‘go to school’, ‘get and keep a job’, ‘pay our taxes’, ‘vote’, ‘serve your country’ are all typical middle class values for this very reason.

Another thing that isn’t understood by Americans but is discussed in political science classes on the collegiate level is the idea that the U.S. cannot survive without a middle class because it functions as a ‘relief valve’.   That’s why we see so little stability in countries where you have extreme wealth disparity and little to no social mobility.  The rich control access to the government and have more influence than their numbers merit.  The poor are desperate to survive and are often very angry because they have so few opportunities to escape grinding poverty.  They have very little power in relation to their being such a large percentage of the population.  In these countries, the middle class stays too small to offer any stability.  They can’t counterbalance the hegemony of the wealthy and they’re too small to provide enough opportunities for the poor.  In these situations, rapid change and/or lawlessness can occur.  Look at Mexico now…rapidly on its way to becoming a failed state.  It is devolving into a narco-state, filled with people either using the narcotics trafficking as means of upward mobility or fleeing to the U.S. to escape the rising violence that inevitably occurs.  If these release valves of immigration and trafficking do not provide enough relief to the situation, then Mexico could experience a revolution.  This is  a pattern seen time and time again–The French Revolution is a great example.  The wealthy and the nobles in France let the people starve until they’d simply had enough.  Even barely educated high school students might recognize the famous quote by Marie Antoinette*, “let them eat cake” (actually it wasn’t cake, it was bread, but Americans aren’t known for their ability to deal with other languages).  She was responding to the people’s cries for meat, vegetables, milk and butter….It wasn’t long until they had her in pretty little neck stretched out in a guillotine.  Such an ugly revolution isn’t necessary in a representative democracy as ours, thank goodness.  We have voting and activism as outlets for changes in power.

Still we need to ask the question:  Is Gov. Brewer telling 285,200 people, 4.3% of the state’s population, that they must “eat bread”–join the ranks of the truly poor so she can claim a political victory?  What about the middle class in Arizona?  When will it get bad enough for the middle class to question why they are falling downward and will never rise again?  The middle class is in crisis in Arizona but how much abuse will they take?  I know the poor have had too much already but that isn’t enough to make a difference.  The middle class HAS to be part of the change.

In the past we had leaders that took us away from the brink of disaster by providing public relief.  Where are those leaders in Arizona today?   I’m not seeing them or hearing them.  One of these days I pray that the people of AZ wake up and find such leaders.  That they vote for new leaders who care about what happens to the people in this state instead of political hacks, liars, and profiteers like Gov. Brewer, Sen. Kyl, State Sen. Pearce, Sen. McCain, Rep. Franks, Rep. Quayle, etc.


*Note:  After publishing this, I found out that Marie Antoinette was not the person who said, “let them eat cake”.  However, she was representative of the uncaring ruling class and she lost her head as a result.  If you want a reference, look up “let them eat cake” at Wikipedia.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tina Rhodes-Arden, Tina Rhodes-Arden. Tina Rhodes-Arden said: The Ties that Bind: Destroying the Middle Class […]

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