1. Write summaries for each of the articles in the module for this week. You can be brief here, but write in full sentences and make sure you are demonstrating that you understood the topic and articles major claims/conclusions. Write a separate summary for each of the four articles.2. What is, according to these articles, going on with the American Dream? Is it achievable for all? What hindrances might one experience in their pursuit of the American Dream?3. The articles presented this week are delving into some of the (many) issues of inequity and inequality across the American landscape that might lead to a lack of access to social mobility and opportunity. Do you agree or disagree with their claims? What do you think about the evidence they present to you? Can anyone rise up in America, if only they work hard? When Martin Luther King Jr. stated that:”Its all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps”what did he mean? Do you agree? Explain, and use the articles as support. I want at least 350 words for the answers to 2 & 3 (combined!).
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RIP, the middle class: 19462013 Salon.com
RIP, the middle class: 19462013
(Credit: sturti via iStock)
I know Im dating myself by writing this, but I remember the middle class.
I grew up in an automaking town in the 1970s, when it was still possible for a high school graduate
or even a high school dropout to get a job on an assembly line and earn more money than a high
I had this student, my history teacher once told me, a real chucklehead. Just refused to study.
Dropped out of school, a year or so later, he came back to see me. He pointed out the window at a
brandnew Camaro and said, Thats my car. Meanwhile, I was driving a beatup station wagon. I
think he was an electricians assistant or something. He handed light bulbs to an electrician.
In our neighbors driveways, in their living rooms, in their backyards, I saw the evidence of prosperity
distributed equally among the social classes: speedboats, Corvette Stingrays, waterbeds,
snowmobiles, motorcycles, hunting rifles, RVs, CB radios. Ive always believed that the 70s are
remembered as the Decade That Taste Forgot because they were a time when people without culture
or education had the money to not only indulge their passions, but flaunt them in front of the entire
nation. It was an era, to use the title of a 1975 sociological study of a Wisconsin tavern, of bluecollar
RIP, the middle class: 19462013 Salon.com
That all began to change in the 1980s. The recession at the beginning of that decade Americas first
Great Recession was the beginning of the end for the bourgeois proletariat. Steelworkers showed
up for first shift to find padlocks on mill gates. Autoworkers were laid off for years. The lucky ones
were transferred to plants far from home. The unlucky never built another car.
When I was growing up, it was assumed that Americas shared prosperity was the natural endpoint of
our economys development, that capitalism had produced the workers paradise to which
Communism unsuccessfully aspired. Now, with the perspective of 40 years, its obvious that the
nonstop economic expansion that lasted from the end of World War II to the Arab oil embargo of 1973
was a historical fluke, made possible by the fact that the United States was the only country to
emerge from that war with its industrial capacity intact. Unfortunately, the middle class especially the
bluecollar middle class is also starting to look like a fluke, an interlude between Gilded Ages that
more closely reflect the way most societies structure themselves economically. For the majority of
human history and in the majority of countries today there have been only two classes: aristocracy
and peasantry. Its an order in which the many toil for subsistence wages to provide luxuries for the
few. Twentieth century America temporarily escaped this stratification, but now, as statistics on
economic inequality demonstrate, were slipping back in that direction. Between 1970 and today, the
share of the nations income that went to the middle class households earning twothirds to double
the national median fell from 62 percent to 45 percent. Last year, the wealthiest 1 percent took in 19
percent of Americas income their highest share since 1928. Its as though the New Deal and the
modern labor movement never happened.
Heres the story of a couple whose working lives began during the Golden Age of middleclass
employment, and are ending in this current age of inequality. Gary Galipeau was born in Syracuse,
N.Y., in the baby boom sweet spot of 1948. At age 19, he hired in at his hometowns flagship
business, the Carrier Corp., which gave Syracuse the title AirConditioning Capital of the World.
Starting at $2.37 an hour, Galipeau worked his way into the skilled trades, eventually becoming a
metal fabricator earning 10 times his original wage.
Understand, he said, in the mid60s, you could figuratively roll out of bed and find a manufacturing
Voss joined Carrier after dropping out of Syracuse University, and getting laid off from an industrial
It was 1978, she said. You could still go from factory to factory. One day, a friend and I were looking
for a job. We saw this big building. We said, Must be jobs in there. In those days, you could fill out an
application and get an interview the same day. I was offered a job within three or four days, making
window units. I sprayed glue on fiberglass insulation, stuck it inside units 400 a day, nearly one a
minute. I was told, After five years, youll have a job for life. Youll be golden.
Galipeau and Voss, who met working at Carrier, lost their jobs in 2004, when the company moved2/6the
RIP, the middle class: 19462013 Salon.com
last of its Syracuse manufacturing operations to Singapore. There, even the most skilled workers
were paid half the $27 an hour Galipeau had earned as a metalworker. The corporation theyd
expected to spend their careers with divorced them in middle age, and now they had to bridge the
years until Social Security and Medicare. Eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance, because her job
had moved overseas, Voss earned a twoyear degree in health information technology a fancy way
of saying medical records.
Even with the degree, Voss couldnt find decentpaying work in healthcare, so she took a job with a
sump pump manufacturer, for $12.47 an hour a substantial drop from Carrier, but decent money for
Central New York in the A.D. of A/C. (The No. 1 employer of exCarrier workers is an Iroquois casino.)
Less than two weeks into the new job, a thread on Voss work glove wrapped itself around a drill
press, taking Voss finger with it. The digit was torn off at the first knuckle. When Voss returned to
work, two months later, she found the factory so distressing that she soon took a medical records job
in a hospital, paying $2.50 an hour less.
After earning a degree in human resources management, Galipeau found that 56 was too old to start
a new career. Fortunate enough to draw a full pension from Carrier, Galipeau took a parttime job at a
supermarket meat counter, for the health insurance. Syracuses leading vocations are now education
and medicine the training of the young and the preservation of the old. Where nothing is left for the
middleaged, or the middle class, its difficult to be both.
The shrinking of the middle class is not a failure of capitalism. Its a failure of government. Capitalism
has been doing exactly what it was designed to do: concentrating wealth in the ownership class, while
providing the mass of workers with just enough wages to feed, house and clothe themselves. Young
people who graduate from college to $9.80 an hour jobs as sales clerks or data processors are giving
up on the concept of employment as a vehicle for improving their financial fortunes: In a recent
survey, 24 percent defined the American dream as not being in debt. Theyre not trying to get ahead.
Theyre just trying to get to zero.
Thats the natural drift of the relationship between capital and labor, and it can only be arrested by an
activist government that chooses to step in as a referee. The organizing victories that founded the
modern union movement were made possible by the National Labor Relations Act, a piece of New
Deal legislation guaranteeing workers the right to bargain collectively. The plotters of the 193637 Flint
Sit Down Strike, which gave birth to the United Auto Workers, tried to time their action to coincide with
the inauguration of Frank Murphy, Michigans newly elected New Deal governor. Murphy dispatched
the National Guard to Flint, but instead of ordering his guardsmen to throw the workers out of the
plants, as he legally could have done, he ordered them to ensure the workers remained safely inside.
The strike resulted in a nickel an hour raise and an end to arbitrary firings. It guaranteed the success
of the UAW, whose high wages and benefits set the standard for American workers for the next 45
years. (I know a Sit Down Striker who died on Sept. 17, at 98 years old, an age he might not have
attained without the lifetime health benefits
won by the UAW.)
RIP, the middle class: 19462013 Salon.com
The United States will never again be as wealthy as it was in the 1950s and 60s. Never again will 18
yearolds graduate directly from high school to jobs that pay well enough to buy a house and support
a family. (Even the auto plants now demand a few years in junior college.) That was inevitable, due to
the recovery of our World War II enemies, and automation that enables 5,000 workers to build the
same number of cars that once required 25,000 hands. What was not inevitable was the federal
government withdrawing its supervision of the economy at the precise moment Americans began to
need it more than at any time since the Great Depression.
The last president who had a plan for protecting American workers from the vicissitudes of the global
economy was Richard Nixon, who was in office when foreign steel and foreign cars began seriously
competing with domestic products. The most farsighted politician of his generation, Nixon realized
that Americas economic hegemony was coming to an end, and was determined to cushion the
decline by a) preventing foreign manufacturers from overrunning our markets and b) teaching
Americans to live within their new limits. When the United States began running a trade deficit, Nixon
tried to reverse the trend with a 10 percent tariff on imported products. After the 1973 Arab Oil
Embargo suddenly increased the price of gasoline from 36 cents to 53 cents a gallon (and just as
suddenly increased the demand for fuelefficient German and Japanese cars), Nixon lowered the
speed limit to 55 miles an hour and introduced the Corporate Average Fuel Economy law, which gave
automakers until 1985 to double their fleetwide fuel efficiency to 27.5 miles per gallon.
Had Nixon survived Watergate, he might have set the nation on a course that emphasized
government regulation of the economy, and trade protection as a response to globalism. We might
also have preserved more of the manufacturing base necessary for a strong middle class. But his
successors dismantled that vision, beginning with Jimmy Carter, an economically conservative
Southern planter. Nixons answer to inflation had been wage and price controls, an intrusion into the
free market that would be unimaginable today. Carter deregulated the airline, rail and trucking
industries, hoping that competition would result in lower prices. It didnt, but it gave the newly liberated
companies more leverage against their unions. When inflation nonetheless reached 14 percent,
Carters handpicked Federal Reserve Board chairman, Paul Volcker, responded by tightening the
money supply, raising interest rates so high that Americans could not afford loans for cars or houses.
Ronald Reagan also chose low prices over employment, refusing to free up money until inflation
declined. Car sales hit a 20year low. In the fall of 1982, the national unemployment rate was 10.8
percent, the highest since the Great Depression. Walter Mondale accused Reagan of turning the
Midwest into a rust bowl a term reformulated to Rust Belt. Buffalo, Cleveland, Flint and Detroit still
havent recovered. Neither has the middle class.
You cant grow an economy, grow a middle class, without making things, producing stuff, says Mike
Stout, a steelworker who lost his job when Pennsylvanias Homestead Works closed in 1986. Its just
impossible. I havent seen it anywhere.
Reagan also fired the striking members
of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization. He
RIP, the middle class: 19462013 Salon.com
argued that he was simply trying to end an illegal strike by public employees, but his action
encouraged private employers to use the same tactic. Once workers realized they could lose their
jobs by joining a picket line, the number of strikes dropped tenfold, from 300 a year before 1981, to 30
a year today.
PrePATCO, 21 percent of workers belonged to unions (still down from the alltime high of 30
percent). Now, fewer than 12 percent do. Union membership is at 14.7 million, the lowest total since
just before World War II. Theres a wellknown graph that shows middleclass income share declining
along the same axis as unionization.
Bill Clinton continued down the same deregulatory path, signing the North American Free Trade
Agreement and the repeal of the GlassSteagall Act, which prohibited commercial banks from owning
NAFTA, which resulted in hundreds of small manufacturers moving to Mexico, was passed over the
vehement objections of labor.
In 1994, Rep. Glenn Poshard of Illinois tried to persuade the Labor Department to intervene in a
lockout at the A.E. Staley Mfg. Co., a Decatur corn starch manufacturer that had been bought by Tate
and Lyle, a Londonbased food conglomerate. Poshard considered the dispute the flashpoint for the
new economic globalism of the 1990s, but when he took a group of workers to meet Labor Secretary
Robert Reich, the secretary gave no indication the federal government would try to settle the matter.
After twoandahalf years, the union capitulated, settling for a third of its prelockout jobs.
Only in 2008, after the bubble of false prosperity created by easy credit and inflated housing values
blew up, did two presidents finally take an active role in the economy. George W. Bush decided he
didnt want to be remembered as the president who allowed American automakers to fall apart, and
sent them $17.4 billion of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout money. Barack Obama finished the job,
setting up an auto task force to guide General Motors and Chrysler through bankruptcy. (He did so
over the objections of his house Clintonite, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Emanuels response to the
prospect of tens of thousands of autoworkers losing their jobs: Fuck the UAW). Even so, new
autoworkers now start at $14 an hour hardly a middleclass wage.
Obama also passed the Affordable Care Act, the most significant piece of social welfare legislation
since the Great Society, but author Peter Beinart still thinks Obama belongs to the modern tradition of
small government presidents, calling his politics procapitalist, antibureaucratic, Reaganized
The lesson of the last 40 years is that we cant depend on the free market to sustain a middle class.
Its not going to happen without government intervention. Even when American industry dominated
the world, one reason workers prospered was that the economy operated on New Deal
underpinnings, which included legal protections for labor unions, government regulation of industry
RIP, the middle class: 19462013 Salon.com
and high marginal income tax rates.
Its time to declare an end to the deregulatory experiment that has resulted in the greatest disparity
between the top earners and the middle earners in nearly a century. Now that the New Deal has been
vanquished a goal conservatives have cherished since before Robert Taft went extinct we need a
Newer Deal that will raise the minimum wage, reduce obstacles to union organizing, levy higher taxes
on passive wealth such as investments and inheritances, and provide benefits for workers unable to
obtain it at their jobs, perhaps by lowering Medicaid eligibility or instituting a singlepayer health
system. The demand for such reforms is brewing. We heard from the middle class during the Occupy
movement of 2011, and from the lower class in this years fast food strikes.
Not long ago, I was in Flint, Mich., to meet with its new congressman, Dan Kildee. No American city
has suffered more during the Age of Deregulation than Flint. In 1978, Flint had 80,000 automaking
jobs, and the highest per capita income in the nation. Today, it has 6,000 automaking jobs, and the
highest murder rate in the Englishspeaking world. Instead of Corvettes and speedboats, the yards
are filled with mean dogs, This Property Protected by Smith & Wesson signs, and weeds. So far,
Kildees biggest achievement has been securing federal funding to tear down 2,000 abandoned
houses. In Flint, where the average home sale price is $15,000, eliminating blight increases property
values. Having seen the consequences of government indifference, Kildee wants to return to the days
of government activism. As county treasurer, he founded a public land bank that helped revive
downtown Flint by purchasing and renovating a hotel that had sat empty since 1973.
It is a myth that there is any market that is not supported or affected by the structure of government in
one way or another, he said. Were picking winners and losers right now, and were picking the
wrong ones. Were making matters worse by not intervening in these communities. Its not fine for
Flint to be one of the losers, as far as Im concerned.
As far as Im concerned, its not fine for the middle class to be one of the losers, either.
Edward McClelland is the author of “Nothin’ But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times and Hopes of
America’s Industrial Heartland.” Follow him on Twitter at @tedmcclelland.
MORE EDWARD MCCLELLAND.
Social & Demographic Trends
AUGUS T 22, 2013
Kings Dream Remains an Elusive Goal;
Many Americans See Racial Disparities
Five decades after Martin Luther Kings historic I Have a Dream speech in Washington, D.C., a new survey by
the Pew Research Center finds that fewer than half (45%) of all Americans say the country has made substantial
progress toward racial equality and about the same share (49%) say that a lot more remains to be done.
Blacks are much more downbeat than whites about the pace of progress toward a colorblind society. They are
also more likely to say that blacks are treated less fairly than whites by police, the courts, public schools and
other key community institutions.
While these differences by race are large, significant minorities of whites agree that blacks receive unequal
treatment when dealing with the criminal justice system.
For example, seveninten blacks and about a third of whites (37%) say blacks are treated less fairly in their
dealings with the police.
Similarly, about twothirds of black respondents (68%) and a quarter of whites (27%) say blacks are not treated
as fairly as whites in the courts.
The survey also finds that large majorities of blacks
(73%) and whites (81%) say the two races generally get
along either very well or pretty well.
Similarly, large majorities of Hispanics and whites say
the same thing about relations between their groups
(74% and 77%, respectively). A substantial majority of
blacks (78%) and smaller share of Hispanics (61%) say
their groups get along.
Still, about a third of all blacks (35%) say they had been
discriminated against or treated unfairly because of
their race in the past year, as do 20% of Hispanics and
10% of whites.
The nationally representative survey of 2,231 adults,
including 376 blacks and 218 Hispanics, was conducted
by telephone Aug. 111.
50 Years of Change
The mixed views on progr …
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