“They call my people the White Lower Middle Class these days. It is an ugly, ice-cold phrase, the result, I suppose, of the missionary zeal of those sociologists who still think you can place human beings on charts. It most certainly does not sound like a description of people on the edge of open, sustained and possibly violent revolt,” wrote the marvelous New York journalist, Pete Hamill in “The Revolt of the White Lower Middle Class” in New York magazine.
The White Lower Middle Class? Say that magic phrase at a cocktail party on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and monstrous images arise from the American demonology. Here comes the murderous rabble: fat, well-fed, bigoted, ignorant, an army of beer-soaked Irishmen, violence-loving Italians, hate-filled Poles. Lithuanians and Hungarians….Sometimes these brutes are referred to as ‘the ethnics’ or ‘the blue-collar types.’ But the bureaucratic, sociological phrase is White Lower Middle Class. Nobody calls it the Working Class anymore.
He wrote that on April 14, 1969. Yesterday. Little changes.
Transferred from NYC to the middle of the country half a century later, these people are referred to as Trump’s “deplorables.” They comes in baskets, as Hillary Clinton said. And even though they represent nearly half the voting public in the last two presidential elections – 70+ million Americans – their complaints are dismissed as the rantings of ignorant, conservative racists.
Name calling substitutes for understanding. This is not an accident.
Like Hamill, I am a NYC born and bred Irish-American – my working-class Bronx to Pete’s Brooklyn. We both attended the same Jesuit high school in different years. Unlike Hamill, known for his gritty street reporting, because I have been a college sociology professor, I could falsely be categorized as a northeastern liberal intellectual oozing with disdain for those who voted for Trump. This is false, because, like Hamill, I see it as my intellectual duty to understand what motivates these voters, just as I do with those who voted for Biden.
I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, nor did I vote for Joseph Biden, or Hillary Clinton in 2016. I am not one of those sociologists Hamill refers to; I use the term Working Class and am acutely aware of the social class nature of life in the USA, where the economic system of neo-liberal capitalism is constructed to try to convince working Americans that the system cares for them, and if they grow disgusted with its lies and inequities and rage against the machine by voting for anyone who seems to be with them (even a super-rich reality TV real estate magnate named Trump who is not with them), they are dumb-ass bigots whose concerns should be brushed off.
The truth is that both the Trump voters and the Biden voters have been taken for a ride. It is a game, a show, a movie, a spectacle. It hasn’t changed much since 1969; the rich have gotten richer and the poor, working, and middle classes have gotten poorer and more desperate. Those who have profited have embraced the fraud.
The Institute for Policy Studies has just released a new analysis showing that since the start of the Covid-19 “pandemic” in mid-March and the subsequent transfer upwards of $5 trillion to the wealthy and largest corporations through the Cares Act, approved 96-0 in the US Senate, 650 US billionaires have gained over a trillion dollars in eight months as the American people have suffered an economic catastrophe.
This shift upward of massive wealth under Trump is similar to Obama’s massive 2009 bailout of the banks on the backs of American workers. Both were justified through feats of legerdemain by both political parties, accomplices in the fleecing of regular people, many of whom continue to support the politicians that screw them while telling them they care….
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