Sunday, October 28, 2012

Who Stole the American Dream?

By Frederick R. Lynch, Published: October 27, 2012

Saving the middle class has become a battle cry in the 2012 presidential campaign — and it’s no wonder. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, the percentage of Americans considered middle class has dwindled to 51 percent from 61 percent in 1971. But the Pew report does not explain the political and economic forces behind this decline. That’s a task Hedrick Smith sets for himself in his new book, “Who Stole the American Dream?”

Long before most reporters and social scientists took note, Smith had established himself as television journalism’s foremost expert on the forces eroding the ranks of the middle class. In a series of penetrating “Frontline” documentaries over more than a decade, he chronicled the rise of a new buccaneer brand of global capitalism that relentlessly undermined the middle-class dream of “a steady job with decent pay and health benefits, rising living standards, a home of your own, secure retirement, and the hope that your children would enjoy a better future.” Now in a sober, self-described reporter’s book, Smith deepens his analysis using the latest data.


In Smith’s telling, America’s corporate plutocracy has largely abandoned even the pretense of stewardship, loyalty or patriotism. It has imported cheap foreign workers to replace millions of Americans in an increasingly wide range of occupations: from agricultural and construction labor to high-tech and banking professionals. Corporate chieftains also moved offshore many of the nation’s once-unionized, blue-collar jobs and low-level white-collar jobs, such as working in call centers. (Smith cites Thomas Jefferson’s prescient warning: “Merchants have no country.”)


“Who Stole the American Dream?” provides a grim panorama of the real-world consequences of these power shifts: concentration of financial assets and higher incomes in fewer hands; race-to-the-bottom wage and sales dynamics (epitomized by the rise of Wal-Mart) that pit American producers against Asian sweatshop factories and result in massive sales of imported, cheap merchandise that, in turn, eviscerates small, local retailers; efforts by America’s highly admired high-tech moguls (from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates) to transfer overseas much of our knowledge-based economy;the evolution of a Washington-Wall Street “symbiosis” that dominates White House and congressional policymaking and thrives on political gridlock.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I saw Hedrick speak a few weeks ago. His talk wis excellent.

The US Gini Index - the measure of inequality - is at an all time high, in the ranks of Rwanda and Uganda.

For those that are wondering if their elected officials are fighting for the middle class, or against it, I posted a congressional report card here.:

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