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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

If ever there were a time to pitch a national read-in, this is it.

The 2012 election campaign is upon us, and from what we’ve seen so far, the tenor of the “messaging” is not what anybody would term enlightening.

What the American public needs right now is context. Deeper interpretation of the data that get thrown at us by the newsmedia. Analysis that steps back from conventional wisdom and soberly considers the origin and nature of the stress and fear so many of us feel about where our nation and our society are going.

The text we should all be reading is “The Betrayal of the American Dream,” by the reporting team of Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. Published this month, the book is a nuanced and well-researched report on the crisis of the American middle class. That is the crisis of our time, and if we’re lucky, it is issue on which this year’s elections will turn.

Middle-class Americans know they are hurting, or are at least vulnerable to the misfortunes they see happening to others. The seriousness of the crisis is easy enough to outline: 22 million people out of work, staggering levels of household debt, a devastated manufacturing base and a wealth gap that has expanded to proportions last seen in the era of the Robber Barons.

Problem is, without context, voters are apt to buy into consensus thinking that rings “true” but is not. Or to submit to the rhetoric of outrage that is carefully retailed by cable TV and AM radio specifically to stir their tribal passions. This, in turn, can have people inadvertently voting against their own interests.

That is not to say Barlett and Steele are disintersted or dispassionate. They summarize the object of their book in the prologue: “The forces that are dismantling the American middle class are relentless. America must stop sacrificing its greatest asset. Because, without a middle class, there isn’t really an America.”

No one goes unscathed. Congress, they write, has taken a “30-year holiday from economic reality — at least as far as the middle class is concerned.” Presidents from both parties from the mid-1970s to today have all too willingly sacrificed the fortunes of working people on the altar of international free trade. In 1979, the authors point out, there were 19.5 million manufacturing jobs in the United States. In 2011, there were 11.6 million.

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Copyright 2012 The National Memo
  • bcarreiro

    congress is part of the problem not part of the solution …obama could have this road to recovery started if it werent for them

    • Its primarily the Republican and Tea Party terrorists in Congress that have been the problem. when Obama was first elected, they openly, and proudly said their one and only goal was to make Obama a 1-term president but blocking anything he tried to do. This has resulted in stalemate after stalemate, and the recovery from Bush’s abysmal presidency is taking longer to get started.

  • The outcome of this election depends on how energized the middle class, Independents, women, ethnic minorities, and students are. Hopefully they will conclude that allowing people whose socio-economic proposals are counter productive to our well being, and whose commentaries are akin to the actions of those who believe women suspected of adultery should be raped and throw acid at the faces of young girls who have the audcaity to seek an education, are the last thing our country needs.

  • sigrid28

    Yesterday, I read a piece on Alternet (8-20-12) that goes a long way toward explaining why people vote against their own interests. Joshua Holland brings together sources in psychology to explain how “we stave off painful cognitive dissonance by a process called ‘motivated reasoning,’ whereby we seek out plausible explanations for complex phenomena in order to make things fit into our previously held belief systems.”

    In a nutshell, our brains start off with a liberal and a conservative inside each of us. If one gets more exercise than the other, it dominates. The liberal side enjoys matching facts to ideas, and discovering new things.

    Not surprisingly, the conservative side will do anything to avoid what social scientists call “cognitive dissonance when it comes to what you believe, when facts get in the way.” Those with a conservative mindset tend “to double-down on those beliefs.” That process is called “motivated reasoning,” a process by which “people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe,” according to research out of Emory University. Todd Akin and the Creationists fall into this category. But middle class readers beware: there is a little conservative inside all of us.

    Holland’s context was by way of explaining why so many Republicans seem to espouse the cruelty in Paul Ryan’s budget plans. But it also explains how the middle class seems unable to stop the progress of its own demise.

  • ste

    I just want to add this: I am retirer on Social Security and on Medicare, The President Obama
    decided to take out of Medicare $700 Billion to pay for Obamacare without permisson from Congress, it dose not leave much for Senior’s for Health Insurance!

    • I too am retired and on medicare so I might be concerned about what you are talking about if anything President Obama did for Obamacare had changed my medicare or pension. It didn’t, matter of fact I got a raise in my pension this past year and nothing has changed in my medicare. Now what Romney did to my insurance and pension when he bought out Armco Steel in Kansas City and drove it into bankruptcy is a different matter. I lost my medical insurance then, something that had been promised my husband as part of his retirement and my vested retirement. It was very poor timing for me to lose my health insurance because I had just been told I had kidney cancer. Lucky for me I managed to get my surgery before my insurance ran out but I couldn’t buy new insurance to cover me because of my medical history. I was without insurance with the possiblility of my cancer returning until I got on medicare so five years later. I doubt Romney lost a nights sleep after putting Armco’s/GSTsteel employees and retirees out in the cold. His business experence is to put money in his own pocket, the hell with his employees.

    • sigrid28

      You can relax, as long as Obama is re-elected. Medicare is a part of Obamacare. Think of it this way: Your doctor’s office may be within a hospital complex. That gives him access to tests and labs that he could not provide his patients if he had his own small office in a commercial building downtown. He can refer you to experts right in the hospital. So, the link between Medicare and Obamacare actually provides you with more services through your Medicare than you had before, and at the same price to you. That’s really important on a fixed income.

    • tranz2deep

      He “to0k out” $0.7 trillion from a crappy component and folded it into the REST of medicare, you blithering..

    • ste, I am also retired and on SS and MEDICARE. The only change I noticed this year is that the RX copays went down slightly. My SS payments and MEDICARE benefits have not changed. President Obama did not take $700B out of MEDICARE without Congress’ permission. He proposed reducing the PROJECTED MEDICARE EXPENSES FOR THE NEXT TEN YEARS by $700B, and Congress, including Rep Ryan, enthusiastically supported his proposal, which is designed to save MEDICARE from bankruptcy by reducing and controlling billing from service providers, by eliminating unnecessary or redundant tests, and by shifting some services to ACA. One of the benefits of what President Obama proposed, and Congress supported, is the elimination of the infamous “doughnut hole” which, as you know, can cost some seniors as much as $2K a year. When ACA is fully implemented in 2014 the cost of medical care will come down substantially, which should, at least in theory, help MEDICARE and every American.

    • Joseph Hemphill

      mis informed, please get the facts. you are being mis led by the republicans, thet are depending on you voting against your best interest.

    • grammyjill

      Do not believe without checking facts. Fact Obama repositioned $716. billion. He took it (with permission) from overpayments to hospitals, insurance companies and drug companies. Then he did something truly terrible with it. He put it into the medicare budget so it will be solvent for ten more years! He also put in free preventive care for seniors, closed that dredded donut hole and actually funded medicare part d that until now has been running unfunded. So he made it better for you.

    • SaneJane

      Do a little research. Compare Romney’s plan to President Obama’s and you will put your worry on the other foot. The $700 Billion is not being used to pay your “Health Insurance” now and will actually be funds saved in the reimbursement process.

  • montanabill

    Am I to gather from this article that defined-benefits and entitlements define the middle class? Am I to gather from this article that as the world changes, we should demand Congress support the buggy whip industry? Do follow the money! And while you are at it, look closely and honestly at why money goes where it goes. You will find that money seeks opportunity. Do you believe the current administration has created opportunity or stifled it? Do you really think that the people who would be entrepreneurs in this country are being encouraged or harassed? How about large industries still in American, are they being encouraged or demonized? Obama’s vision of an America where the ‘rich’ pay their ‘fair share’ (whatever that is) and more than half pay nothing, is not a vision with a middle class. It is a vision of two classes: the government and us.

    • tranz2deep

      No. That’s not what they’re saying at all. It is obvious you’re one of the gulled fools that has an opinion and refuses to see objective fact or even *READ THE DAMNED BOOK* before judging its contents.

      Get thee behind me? Not a chance, backstabber. You stay right where you are, while those who think continue on. We will look back and see with honest eyes, so you’re not ghetting a shot at us this time around!

    • no what you mean is its too class’s of poeple and that is the rich-vs-the poor and that is so sad because most consevatives feel’s this way i got mine you get your’s there’s just one thing that’s wrong with that way of did not get there by your-slef some-one help you.I don’t care how or when you got some kind of help and this is why you guy’s are losing this election. montanbill

    • Bill, what President Obama proposed was changing the tax rate of people with a taxable income higher than $250K back to Clinton era levels, when we all prospered and paid our fair share. Regarding the half that doesn’t pay taxes, you may want to consider that it includes children under 18, senior citizens trying to survive on a meager Social Security check, handicapped people unable to work, the unemployed, and the very poor. I am retired, middle class, and paid a higher rate than Romney last year.

  • Obama could not make progress as hoped because of all the opposition from Republicans. In all fairness this behavior is the same when a Republican is in office. The twol party system has outlived its original concept, therefore usefullness.

    I am an 86 year old widow who pays taxes in a much higher tax bracket because of a monthly annuity tied to my husband’s teaching at Indiana University. Four months a year I am no income in order to pay estimated taxes. I am broke from the Medicare/ 20% health and prescription premiums, the latter helps for sic months and the doughnut hole greets me.

    Indiana is a Republican state but Bloomington, home of Indiana University is Democrat. The city has had Democratic mayors since 1972 which included a female. Go Obama!

  • The middle class is fed up with bammyboys’ socialist crap