True story. I once had a neighbor who had lived in Washington D.C. and had what I would consider the perfect library for a man who had lived in a national capitol. I was quite envious of his collection. For job reasons, he was forced to quickly relocate I wound up caring for his very nice library. It was better than Christmas because for nine months, I devoured everything he had that I wanted to read but had not because of the expense--mostly the political / social science tomes addressing current dilemmas that were almost impossible to get from the local library.
I noticed something I thought charming. About page 25 in almost every book there was a neatly trimmed and folded review of the book from the the New York Times or Washington Post. I commented on this practice to another neighbor who had also spent time in D.C. because I thought it a good habit and wondered if this wasn't something from the east coast we folks in Minnesota might mimic.
What was happening, she explained to me, was my relocated neighbor was just trying to keep up with Washington chatter. He would read the book reviews on Sunday, buy the books at some downtown bookseller during the week, read the first 25 pages, and by the next weekend could pretend he was intellectually up to speed on all the latest hot topics. Of course, by the next Sunday there were more book reviews, books to buy, etc. so it was highly unlikely that he had ever finished any of the books is his library.
I was genuinely shocked. And she noticed. The poor woman almost exploded with laughter. She said that one of the things she had observed about Minnesotans was that they read far into books. I confessed that she had been describing me. "When I buy a book, I want it to last a little while so not only do I read it to the end, I even read the footnotes. I want my money's worth! Besides, most authors don't really warm up until about chapter 10 so this guy has probably never seen the good stuff in any book." She said my sentiments, while not common, at least manifested themselves in Minnesota. On the other hand, "I never met anyone in Washington that actually finished a book. Why do you think folks around here are such careful readers?"
I suggested that we Nordics come from a long line of people who believe that there is really nothing like books to cope with winter. We are Lutherans who believe that being well-read is a sign of virtue. And we are cheap.
The reason I tell this story is that I once wrote something (almost profound) about the economics of the American middle class. I wrote it in about 1987 and it showed up in Chapter 14 of Elegant Technology. So for all those folks who think that the first 25 pages are all that is worth reading in a book, here it is--found on page 180 of the pdf file:
Americans think that the middle class is ordained of the gods. They forget that it was a product of their grandparents, and their wisdom. Many societies exist throughout the world with no real middle class. Like anything else, the middle can be destroyed.
In America, the middle is under siege: the political middle, the economic middle, and even the geographic middle. Charts of American prosperity in the 1980s showed that the 34 states in the middle of the country were in recession during a “growing economy.” Great societies are produced by the middle. An assault on the middle is an assault on the social fabric.
The attack on the middle comes from an odd grab-bag of political bedfellows. From the political right the assault is a combination of Wall Street dealmakers who busy themselves destroying the futures of small Midwestern cities, and their neofeudalist apologists who concocted the utter barbarism known as monetarism. From the political left, the antitechnology, antibusiness, postindustrialists propose rationales for why this destruction does not matter.I was not especially prescient in these matters--it was just that I knew that any economic system that could destroy the owner-operated agricultural systems of the USA midwest in the 1980s could certainly wipe out the middle class. So in 2010 we see articles like this.
15 Shocking Poverty Statistics That Are Skyrocketing As The American Middle Class Continues To Be Slowly Wiped Out
The "America" that so many of us have taken for granted for so many decades is literally disintegrating right in front of our eyes. Most Americans are still operating under the delusion that the United States will always be "the wealthiest nation" in the world and that our economy will always produce large numbers of high paying jobs and that the U.S. will always have a very large middle class. But that is not what is happening. The very foundations of the U.S. economy have rotted away and we now find ourselves on the verge of an economic collapse. Already, millions upon millions of Americans are slipping out of the middle class and into the devastating grip of poverty. Statistic after statistic proves that the middle class in the United States is shrinking month after month after month. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are starting to wake up and are beginning to realize that we have very serious problems on our hands, but they have no idea what is causing our economic distress and they are unaware that most of our politicians have absolutely no idea how to fix the economic disaster that we have created.
On the mainstream news, the American people are treated to endless footage of leaders from both political parties proclaiming that the primary reason that we are in the midst of such an economic mess is because of what the other political party has done. more
For the Unemployed Over 50, Fears of Never Working Again
Patricia Reid, 57, lost her job at Boeing four years ago and has struggled to find a new position.
By MOTOKO RICH
Published: September 19, 2010
VASHON ISLAND, Wash. — Patricia Reid is not in her 70s, an age when many Americans continue to work. She is not even in her 60s. She is just 57.
But four years after losing her job she cannot, in her darkest moments, escape a nagging thought: she may never work again.
College educated, with a degree in business administration, she is experienced, having worked for two decades as an internal auditor and analyst at Boeing before losing that job.
But that does not seem to matter, not for her and not for a growing number of people in their 50s and 60s who desperately want or need to work to pay for retirement and who are starting to worry that they may be discarded from the work force — forever.
Since the economic collapse, there are not enough jobs being created for the population as a whole, much less for those in the twilight of their careers.
Of the 14.9 million unemployed, more than 2.2 million are 55 or older. Nearly half of them have been unemployed six months or longer, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate in the group — 7.3 percent — is at a record, more than double what it was at the beginning of the latest recession. moreAnd just so one doesn't get the idea that the death of the middle class is a law of nature but a deliberate policy decision, we see a "Democratic" President actively working to subvert the remaining parts of the New Deal.
Driving Another Nail Into the Coffin of the New Deal
Obama's Latest Apologetics
By ALAN NASSER, September 15, 2010
In Cleveland, Ohio last Wednesday and a White House press conference two days later president Obama opted full throttle for Richard Nixon’s Big Lie strategy: when you preside over a worsening disaster look your constituency straight in the eye and tell them that black is white. Don’t flinch, don’t shift your eyes. Just lie. Lie big. Then cross your fingers they won’t believe you could have the audacity.
All of the White House’s current pronouncements aim to avert large Democratic losses in the November elections, and to cover the administration’s ass in the face of economic conditions that are already worse and asymptotically approaching the worst. Wednesday’s talk touted an allegedly new plan that would address more effectively the dreadful unemployment situation: 30 million workers either can’t find jobs or are forced to accept part-time work. Friday’s press conference restated the message with an added vigorous renunciation of capitalism-with-a-human-face politics. more