Recent protests at fast-food restaurants by workers seeking higher wages are just one of several man-ifestations of the growing awareness that the benefits of our economy are not fairly distributed - and have been flowing more toward those at the top than at any time since before the Great Depression.

One obvious reason is that working class Americans, such as those working at or near a federal minimum wage that has shrunk when inflation is taken into account, have become the odd men and women out when political decisions are made.

Their plight once again came into sharp focus with the recently concluded federal budget deal that will result in 1.3 million Americans having their extended unemployment benefits terminated as of Jan. 1, 2014. Many more will follow those next year in losing an economic lifeline that is keeping millions afloat.

These people are struggling through the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s - one that still hasn't ended for millions and has left millions more looking over their shoulders wondering when they might join the long lines of the unemployed.

Yet the federal government is prepared to cut them off in a manner unthinkable before the anti-government rage - which hit a new irrational pitch three years ago with the birth of the Tea Party and a hard right tilt for the national Republican Party.

But that still does not explain why a program that logically helps millions avoid bankruptcy or the loss of their homes or dissolution of their families - and costs a pittance in terms of the $3.8 trillion federal budget - would be jettisoned to appease a warped appeal to American individualism. Especially as the theory behind cuts of this nature are far from relevant for an industrialized, mostly urban 21st century nation.

The Tea Party and the far-right Republicans are not, after all, a majority. Yet they got their way on this and other spending issues that negatively impact half of all Americans, if not more.

It's obvious that the national Democrats no longer support the working class as they did during the Great Depression and well beyond World War II, when millions of families, in fact, rose into the middle class and beyond with help from government programs. They are no longer willing to go to the mat for the average worker, as recent cuts in the SNAP nutrition program also illustrated.

Is it because so few national political figures today have a working class background? That likely contributes to what we're seeing. It's entirely possible that neither party has a clear image of what will result from this type of budget cut - as opposed to a tax hike for the well-off.

Those demonstrators at fast-food restaurants and big box stores appear to have come to grips with a hard reality: Neither party is there for them on the national level when the chips are down. They live in a different economic reality from the more than comfortable leaders of both political parties.

Which means organizing and taking action on their own is likely the only way to be taken seriously - and to get a grip on a more reasonable slice of the massive American pie.