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In 2015, convention delegate Don Genhart wears American flag cowboy boots during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Goodnight American Dream: The Middle Class Is Now a Minority

Peter Van Buren

 by We Meant Well

The middle class, which for 40 years has represented a majority of the country in practice, and formed the foundational belief in what has been known as the “American Dream,” is now just half the United States, according to a new report.

Over at least the last four decades, productivity gains have gone largely to the top of the economic pyramid, increasing both their income and wealth. Real income growth has been flat for most Americans, even as the cost of living has increased.

"Someone else now, in every effective and meaningful way, owns us."Need it in numbers?

The share of America’s income going to the middle class has fallen from 62 percent in 1970 to 43 percent now. Today, the majority of our national income goes to the upper class, which reaps a 49 percent share. (By comparison, the share of income going to the upper class in 1970 was just 29 percent). The median wealth of middle class households has fallen by more than one-fourth since the beginning of this century.

Need it in simple terms?

The rich are getting very much richer, seeing their wealth grow exponentially. The middle class is shrinking. Meanwhile, the poor are still poor and their numbers are growing. We are indeed heading toward a society within a society within the world’s wealthiest nation — one percent of “us” now own half of everything.

The implications of this path are dark.

At the point where a handful of people control most of the wealth, and the other money in our nation is so diffuse as to make those individuals in the bottom 99 percent of our society irrelevant except as cheap labor, we live in a modern day version of feudalism. Money is power, and a select handful now can control elections with “donations,” can have laws written and rewritten to match their needs, can keep a lid on the minimum wage more and more of us depend on now to get by, manipulate college loan and mortgage rates to keep people in debt, and secure ownership of the land we live on and the places we live. Hyper-wealthy people through their charitable foundations are free to social-engineer our world, paying to say grow one form of educational system while leaving another to wither on limited funding.

How did the wealthy pull off the greatest peaceful takeover of a nation in human history? Very easily. Their master stroke, however, was not to take predatory capitalism to its extreme, but to do so without sparking more than a whisper of disagreement from the very people they trod upon. Here is the lynch pin of how the rich have taken us: they have convinced average Americans to act and vote against their own interests, in part by manipulating them into opposing any program that has a chance of benefiting black and brown equally or more than themselves. Decent health care and nutrition for everyone? That’s socialism!

Our entire culture is fear-based, from our religion to our media to Wall Street. It drives everything, and fear is the most powerful tool that rulers can use to manipulate people. It is this constant state of fear that really makes us exceptional compared to every other advanced nation.

People, we have been bought. Someone else now, in every effective and meaningful way, owns us. Suckers.

 


© 2021 Peter Van Buren
Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq as a State Department Foreign Service Officer serving as Team Leader for two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Now in Washington, he writes about Iraq and the Middle East at his blog, We Meant Well. His books include: "We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People" (2012) and "Hooper's War: A Novel of Moral Injury in WWII Japan" (2017).

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