For the last seven years or so, sociologists have noted that middle class frustration is rising. Economists tell us that this will be the first American generation that will be unable to live better than its parents; and this has translated into growing voter anger and revolt. The media has nicknamed this movement "the radical middle," and it correctly perceives that neither party in Washington is looking out after its interests. A 1995 Gallup poll found that 60 percent of all Americans favor the creation of a third party. This is a truly stunning number.
So, who's to blame for the stagnation of the middle class? Some might criticize this very question, pointing out that there is too much blame in American politics already, and not enough personal responsibility. This is certainly true, but it does not negate the appropriateness of blame under the right circumstances. For example, we correctly blame a criminal for raping and murdering a family member, and the criminal does not get off the hook by accusing the bereaved family of playing the blame game. When something has gone very wrong, accurately identifying the cause is the first step in correcting it. Otherwise, reform becomes impossible.
The genius of the corporate special interest system has been to transfer the blame for middle class stagnation from the rich to the poor. Reagan conjured up Welfare Queens driving Welfare Cadillacs who didn't even exist, as the press later discovered. Meanwhile, insider traders riding in limousines did exist -- like Ivan Boesky -- and they ripped off the public for thousands of times more money than welfare cheats. Unfortunately, they escaped the notoriety of becoming Presidential campaign themes. George Bush rescued his sinking 1988 campaign by focusing on a single criminal -- Willie Horton -- even though the $500 billion Savings and Loan disaster was developing at the same time, only behind the scenes.
Politicians find it popular to run against crime, welfare, illegitimacy,
affirmative action, immigration, and anything else that is usually attributed
to the poor. But voters should keep a few points in mind. First, the poor
cannot afford lobbyists to protect their interests in Washington, or advertising
campaigns to sway public opinion, or well-financed operations to organize
their political agenda. And that is why they make easy targets, both at
budget and election time. Second, our government has been bought and paid
for by corporate special interests. If you may recall an earlier statistic
on this webpage, corporations form 67 percent of all PACs, and make 79
percent of all contributions to the political parties. If voters are angry
with the way this nation is being run, then corporations are the ones most
responsible. Third, the poor actually have a small impact on society, as
the following statistics will show. For example, Welfare comprises only
1 percent of the federal budget. Even a generous definition of welfare --
including school lunches and student grants -- comprises only 12 percent
of the budget. In American politics, as the cliché goes, a very small tail
is wagging a mighty large dog.
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