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Working class -- the tipping point

See also:
Working class -- a definition
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/08/270802.shtml
Working class vs. middle class
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/08/270920.shtml
This is not a difficult concept.

The tipping point in the American economy is widely considered to have been around 1973. Working class incomes began to decline and have been declining, when inflation is considered, ever since. Meanwhile the middle class has held steady, income wise, while the rich have become much richer.

The bottom line here is that working class people are being exploited by the middle and upper classes. We are not making a living wage. You can choose to get it or not get it, but that is the reality.

According to the definition I read, by an economist, working class in the United States means a household income below $30,000 a year. By that definition, I read, about 40 percent of the households in the United States are working class. We are not just talking about the "poor," who are a subset of the working class. We're talking about a very substantial minority of our citizens who do not make a living wage -- an income on which you can support a family.

Something needs to be done about this. We are not going to shut up about it so you clowns can feel more comfortable.

As I've previously written, I recommend that working class people form their own political organizations, pressure groups, to vote as a block and force the middle and upper classes to give us a living wage. We should also work on job security and supporting the safety net, which working class people need in order to survive. I think we should focus on state politics, because that is where we could swing the most weight.

I could go on and suggest more specific changes we could push, but there is no point in doing that unless enough people can see past the fog coming out of the mouths of some of the people on this, supposedly "progressive" website. If "progressive" politics isn't about the fair distribution of income, then it isn't about anything.

One small problem with your vision... 01.Sep.2003 01:50

Portland Ponderer

...those in the working class need to have the time to organize and educate themselves and others. Kinda hard to do when working 40 or more hours, being forced to do all the mainteneance on your home and car because you cannot afford a professional, raising kids and/or supporting elderly parents and ne'er do well relatives.

I agree with you, but this issue really needs to be addressed, to overcome the apathy that grips the nation's voting - eligible population. The system is set up to where those with the least reward work so hard they have no time or strength left to complain once "obligations" are met. How else will "they" keep the wage slaves in line?

More than one small problem... 01.Sep.2003 05:30

maxwell

I agree that it is important for working class people to "form their own political organizations, pressure groups, to vote as a block," etc. The term Labor Unions springs to mind. For some time now, the right has been systematically crushing the unions, especially since Reagan, and their efforts continue. But a lot of union workers make more than $30,000 a year, so I guess you don't want to talk about them.

You seem to miss the point (which a lot of people brought up in that last string you started) that there is a considerable overlap between the working class and the middle class. I agree with you that among many members of the middle class, there is a great deal of apathy and ignorance of issues affecting those less fortunate than themselves. This doesn't mean they are the Enemy. This means they need to be educated about these issues. The "middle class" and "working class" (by your definitions) SHARE a common enemy in the super-rich, neo-conservative, fear-mongering Crazies who are currently in charge of our country.

 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/08/270994.shtml
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/08/271004.shtml

Telling someone of the "working class" that "Your enemy Is your 'middle class' boss," does not get us very far toward an equitable distribution of wealth in our society. It only divides people who should be uniting. Did you READ the objections people raised to your last post?

I consider myself working class because I work with my hands full-time at a sub-living-wage job, and my wife does the same thing. Together, we bring in more than $30,000, but not much! Does this make me the enemy of someone who makes less than we do? Your line in the sand ($30,000) that you got from "an economist" is arbitrary by your own admission. The lines are blurring. The middle class is shrinking. There really is class warfare going on, but the only ones talking about it are the BUSHIES!!! They call it "class warfare" when someone criticizes their tax cut for the top 1%!!!

George, you have every right to be angry that the state is bankrupt, the country is swirling down the toilet, and the 60s didn't turn out the way we wanted. There are a lot of good people here ready to work for real change. Let's not waste our time applying labels and assigning blame. Surely you have something more positive to contribute?

Kissing the wip 01.Sep.2003 09:35

Duncan

Kissing the Wip" is a term that Greg Palast used to described the affinity of the oppressed for theie opressors. I think that its a good point- In the US because we have the illusion of upward mobility people will allow their oppression in the hopes that they may one day be the oppressor themselves. People need to know that their chances of ever gettingh to the upper class without being born there are pretty slim.

They also have to realize that they are being sold a bill of goods about lifestyle. Americans waste their money on crap they dont need and cant afford- I dont know how many trailers I have seen in the Southeast with 30K cars in front of them. Never having the new car bug, I asked a coworker what her three year old SUV cost her, and all told it was $900! (car payments, extra car insurance and "gap" insurance) at a rate of 14% interest (not uncommon for people without large downpayments, ie the working poor. when I applied for a car loan out of curiosity they said "sure, at 21% interest") It makes me wonder how much shit we buy (on credit) we believe we need, but could eisily do without. Each of these peurchases is money that could be spent on better housing, health insurance, clothes, education. This is not a problem soley of the working class- I was watching Dr. Phil (break room at work) and he was talking to a coupld that made 100K plus a year, yet were facing bankruptcy. He went through their spending and figured that they spent 3K/month on their two vehicles (more then my income). It was almost a third of their income! There is a lot more then cars involved in the spending frenzy. Having helped several of my coworkers get hoem loans (we all make 24-38K/ year), I can assure you that these are real world pieces of advice that have helped moderate income people get homes. I tel them 1) sell your car, get a cheap one for cash (the average car loan will reduce by 50,000$ the amount of mortggage you are able to secure, in Portland on a "working class income" (Id go up to 35K for Portland) thats the differance between a small house and no house) 2) pay off your credit cards and leave them at home (the average american has 8K in unsicured credit card debt and 5 CCs) 3) make a budget that fits your income.

The point of all this is that we live in the system, we give money to the owners of the system, people need to know that they can at the very least choose who to pay. Unless you live in a tent or come from money, you can either pay a land lord or a bank. Pay the bank, because then you get the taxright off and equity (not to mention that you dont have to beg to paint the living room or have a cat). Go to Mikes movie madness instead of Hollywood video, because at least at Mikes the employees dont have to kiss your ass or wear dorky polyester tshirts.

The corprate machine makes its money by seperating working class people from their money, and they are really good at it- they go after you, you fears of inadequecy, even your kids to get at your wallet. As Epictitus said "all things either things that we can change, or things we cannot change". I personally cant stop Walmart, but I sure as hell am not going to shop there.

Disposable income . . . . 01.Sep.2003 11:17

Dr. Evil. . .

Despite all the carping here, I note that all of you either have a computer, or have enough disposable income to enjoy access to one.
Computers aren't cheap, and they aren't made by the local collective. They are made by corporations, so you all are supporting that which you loathe. . . . .

Dr Evil needs to consult Dr Reality 01.Sep.2003 11:45

Doctor J as in slam dunk

Hey Dr. Evil, i'm gonna slam dunk you dude, in your face, and you ain't gonna do nuthin about it.

Here's a quote from your comment:
"Computers aren't cheap, and they aren't made by the local collective. They are made by corporations, so you all are supporting that which you loathe. . . . . "

I'm at the foul line Evil, and I'm jumping. The ball is in my hand, it's right there in front of your eyes, read the stichin chump and never forget it: WORKERS MAKE COMPUTERS, AND CORPORATE EXECUTIVES AND STOCKHOLDERS STEAL THE PROFIT FROM THE WORKER'S LABOR

Get that Doctor Evil? Now I'm past you, soaring, and stuffin the ball in the hoop. Two points. Go sit on the bench, you ain't evil, you just stoopid!

HAPPY LABOR DAY FROM DOCTOR J!!!!

I love Dr. J!! 01.Sep.2003 13:17

a mere mortal

Anyone can get online for FREE at any public library.

The working class and action precedes consciousness 01.Sep.2003 17:51

Frank Little

It is neccessary for the working class to form its own organizations, and
to lead in the formation of the new society. Only those truly alienated by
this system can offer meaningful solutions. That being said, who is the working
class??
If income becomes the determining factor, as capitalist economists would
like us to believe, we stand to risk alienating a large number of workers whose
true interests are as workers, regardless of their income. What is the defining
point of differentiation capitalism lays for workers, regardless of income?
Alienation. The lack of control over the conditions of work and lack of
control over production itself.
Often times, those within the left are quick to dismiss the revolutionary potential of workers within the first world,workers who by income may be argued to be middle class. It is neccessary to have a vision beyond material wealth, beyond economics. To look at the real interests, and the true behaviour of all workers, (be their wages high or low), to see their true class interests.
Martin Glaberman was a middle class college student when he decided to
enter the auto industry in the late fifties. His studies of worker militancy
in one of the highest paid industrial sectors of the working class thru the
sixties and seventies are a useful insight into the question of class, income, and class interests.
Glaberman emphasized two points as guiding in his interpretation of the
behaviours of high paid workers, particularly in "developed" nations.

Glaberman argued that revolutionary transformation wasnt as simple as a door to door campaign, convincing all workers of socialism, anarchism, whatever the "proper" answer to our problems was. He argued that the oppressed, the workers, were raised in a capitalist system, and therefore where only capable of speaking the language of capitalism. This was not reason to dismiss their revolutionary potential. It
was simply neccessary to recognize this in evaluating their actions. He argued that often there was a contradiction between ideas workers espoused, and the ideas they truly enacted. The idea that action precedes consciousness was that it is through the struggle
itself that workers are transformed, that the language and ideology of
capitalism that workers speak can only be transformed through struggle itself. That it is thru struggle that the language of workers can begin to match the revolutionary ways these
workers behave. This concept argued that regardless of the language or the
ideology workers use, it is neccessary to look at their behaviour, their actions,
and that often times workers act in manners much more revolutionary than
they would be willing to themselves recognize at that time.
Two significant example Glaberman uses to illustrate this....
During the late fifties and into the sixties, the United Auto Workers had some of the
highest paid industrial workforce in the United States. Under the
leadership of Walter Reuther, the UAW followed the current capitalist trend of
offering increasing benefits and wages in exchange for higher productivity
from their workforces. Repeatedly, the UAW would negotiage contracts that
were heralded as record breaking for benefits and wages, and wildcat strikes
would break out throughout the unions locals. The demands in these strikes
were consistently oriented around local, inhouse grievances or local job and shop
control. Glaberman recognized that the workers were resisting the speed up, the
agony of the alienation of work in which workers were consistently losing
control. That these workers were striking, unable to be bought off,
regardless of the amount against speedup, for greater self management, against misery in labor. They were resisting the alienation that labor without self management imposed on them. In leiu of greater economic compensation, these workers were struggling for direct control over production. As Glaberman pointed out,"as long as work under capitalism sucks, workers will resist,". He was fond of quoting marx,"be their wages high or low," the idea that it is not simple economic degradation that workers resist under
capitalism, but the alienation, the desperation that is spending a life laboring
under conditions and for products which workers have no say in.
During WWII the United States government offered a compromise to the
leadership of organized labor. In exchange for forced union recognition and wage
increases in select industries, organized labor would push no-strike
pledges on their membership. The idea promoted was that strikes during war time
were anti patriotic, undermining the war effort. The United Auto Workers
passed the no strike pledge(not without significant internal dissent and
battles) through a mail in vote in which a majority of the members voting
affirmed it(although not a majority of workers bothered to vote). Many at this
point would argue that these well paid auto workers were pro capitalist, pro
war, nationalist, and most importantly motivated by a materialist desire
for greater wages, voting away their right to strike indefinitely in
exchange for a patriotic pro war pro imperialist arguement. At this same time,
however, a solid majority of workers in the UAW were engaging in wildcat
strikes against the companies, against the union, and against the very no-strike
pledge they had voted for. These workers, in contradiction of their own language, acted in a manner that was arguably anti imperialist, anti war, and anti nationalist. Glaberman used this as an illustration of how often times, even workers with the most reactionary language and ideologies act in revolutionary manners, manners far more revolutionary than they
themselves might be willing to recognize or admit.
If economics alone is the furthest demand workers can submit, what happens
when everyone becomes middle class? Do workers in developed nations then
continue to buy the nationalist arguement of imperialism and live at the
expense of workers in other nations around the world? For a revolution that is
truly transformative, that is meaningful, workers must cross racial
boundaries, cross economic boundaries within their class, and cross national
boundaries with their organizations. If our recognition of working class is
limited to income, how does the (income based) working class of developed or
"1st" world nations relate to the working class of "3rd" world nations? Do
they then become privildged enemies of the REAL working class?
It is not the nurses, not the plumbers, not the well paid but nonetheless
exploited and alienated workers with good wages who exploit those trapped
in the desperate lowest paid sectors of the working class.
Any useful analysis of class, of class oppression and class struggle must
have an awareness of how differing incomes, how race, gender, sexuality,
and different modes of oppression within capitalism intersect. Without this
awareness and an understanding of how this impacts the way different workers
ineract, truly unified and independant working class organization cannot
exist. It is also important, however, that we not mistake economic, racial,
genderbased, or other priviledges within capitalism as class distinctions
themselves.
An economicly based understanding of class also fails to take into account
the trends of economic development for middle and working classes in modern times. Through the mid to late sixties, upward mobility and an expanding middle class were a
reality. Some point after that, having developed its productive capacities
through speed up and technological developments capitalism in the first
world found itself no longer in need of a pliant and large workforce. Thru
internationalization of the labor force(shipping of jobs overseas), the use of
the state, and economic manipulation, we now find thirty years of a
shrinking middle class, with workers in the trades and semi skilled workers
facing declining wages and benefits and a distinct slide into what would be
even by economic distinctions no longer considered middle class.
Where does this place us? Any true transformation of society must be led,
and will be led by the sectors truly most oppressed. An understanding of
the intersections of race gender sexuality income etc. are critical pieces to
developing a strategy and unified class organizations capable of combating
increasingly powerful international capital. This is not to argue that
these intersections are secondary to class, but that they are at the center of
it. Using this to write off segments of the same alienated class that
struggles alongside all workers is divisive and weakens the potential of any
movement against capitalism.

Dr. J and mere mortal . . . 03.Sep.2003 16:55

Dr. Evil . . .

I don't care if you are using a computer in the library or anywhere else, you are still using what the "man" (in your dumbass language) makes,
transmitting your data over lines that corporations make, operate, and profit from. You support that which you loathe.
The only thing Dr. J stuffed was his head up his ass . . . . . .

dumb hippie bullshit 10.Jun.2004 03:25

me crossouttheeyes13@yahoo.com

what the hell is writng some dumb ass internet thing going to do. if they need this money so damn much they'd a) not have a computer b) not have time to be on the computer looking for sad tales about their life c) be really fuckin pissed at you, just like i am, because your ranting and raving about all this shit but arent doing anything about it. get off your lazy ass and fight for them or stop your bitching and do something constructive.