The American Middle Class Promiseland And Why We Turned Our Backs On It

Here is an interesting fact: Antidepressants are THE most prescribed drugs in the USA. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans are popping more Prozac than they are blood pressure and heart meds. I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s not like there are many reasons to be dancing in the streets, especially if you are a member of the poor or middle class and you have watched your way of life slip away. With no other recourse, the best many of us can do is numb the pain that life is causing.

It wasn’t that long ago when a high school graduate, even a high school drop out could marry, buy a home, own a car and raise a family on just one income. Most middle class Americans were able to take a vacation, send their kids to good public schools even go out to dinner on Friday nights all without acquiring huge loads of consumer debt. And best of all, that way of life and better could be passed on to their children. It may not have been perfect, but it was pretty damn good.

Well, They say, “All Good Things Come To An End.” and boy, are THEY right. Ronald Reagan famously said: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” That line was the beginning of a 30 year effort on the part of the wealthy and powerful to convince people that all we have accomplished since World War II was bad. That everything from the GI Bill to Social Security to Medicare to Union Rights, the institutions responsible for our prosperity, were evil. And people believed it.

I am reminded of the scene in The Ten Commandments where Edward G. Robinson convinces the Hebrews to create a golden calf to worship. After all, he tells his fellow Hebrews, what has God done for you besides deliver you from thousands of years of bondage? The same thing happened here in America. When it comes to acting, Ronald Reagan was no Edward G. Robinson, but he was equally convincing to Americans that we needed to get rid of those things that have improved our standard of living and to begin worshiping our own golden calf, the corporations and the wealthy who will deliver even greater things.

Indeed, greater things have been delivered, but not for the heart and soul of this great country, but for the rich and the powerful. The Reagan tax cuts for the wealthy began the slow but steady transfer of the wealth of the middle class up to the richest Americans, but it didn’t stop there. The increasing deregulation of corporations including The Clinton deregulation of Wall Street derivatives in the name of increasing prosperity, and the G.W Bush tax cuts for the rich, all generated more wealth, power and influence for the wealthy and for corporate America.

They have even managed to turn Union into a dirty word. Labor Unions who were instrumental in improving the standard of living and working conditions of all Americans (whether union members or not), were suddenly seen as something that was bad. Scott Walker, the controversial governor of Wisconsin, was recently recorded on a phone call saying that he believed the most important moment of Ronald Reagan’s Presidency was when he fired striking FAA Air Traffic Controllers. And next on the right wing agenda is to make it harder if not impossible for the people to be heard. Already several Republican controlled states across America have either passed or are trying to pass legislation which makes it more difficult for the poorest Americans to exorcise their constitutional right to vote.

And so here we are. The thirty year assault on the real people of America has taken its toll. The good union jobs, the one income household, the yearly vacation, the American dream have all vanished. We are now working ourselves poor. We are drowning in personal debt that will never be repaid, and we are unable to pass on to our children a way of life that is better than ours. In fact, we may be handing them one that is far worse. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get my prescription filled.

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