Milton Bass: Sinking middle class



This is embarrassing so I will try to get past it quickly. Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. For years, I have been telling people that I am a member of the American middle class and now it turns out that it is not true. I am a member of one of the middle classes available to Americans.

My social and economic group were once the proud members of a special force that dominated our representation of the democratic form of government forged by the Founding Fathers. Itwas embellished over the years by a host of great leaders, a sound Senate and House of Representatives, and the votes of citizens who cared about humanity as well as their own personal welfare. All that is behind us now. We have a president who truly means well but has not been as forceful as some of the giants of the past. We have a Congress so partisan that they barely nod to each other when passing in the corridors. We have a Supreme Court that is 5-4ing us to an oligarchy that is squeezing us into an ordinary nation.

First of all, let’s get oligarchy out of the way because so many commentators are using the term without enough definition. A good dictionary description is "A form of government in which all power is invested in a few persons in a dominant class or clique." Usually when commentators use the term oligarchy they have in mind the Koch brothers, Charles and David, whose fortune from their oil business is reportedly $100 billion dollars. I personally have found the Koch brothers fascinating and wonder if they in their mansions have as many footmen as did Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, in the TV hit "Downton Abbey."


The Kochs, reportedly have spent something like $33 million from their various patriotically named reactionary political organizations while the Democrats claim unduly or not that they are holding their own in both fundraising and spending. The big moves, of course, have to do with the Senate races because the Republicans are close to gaining control while the Democrats are holding on for dear life. A great deal will depend on how deep the Koches are willing to go and how many of their coterie will live up to their financial promises. And, of course, how many people are taken in by the political ads on television.

Countries that have, or once had, royal families have no trouble with class distinctions even under changing economic events. You could now be poor as a church mouse or an ignorant drunk, but if you are a lord, a duke or an Italian prince, you are still respected for your majestic background. We Americans have to do it in monetary terms.

Take me, for instance. I have had a college education, wor-
ked at a remunerative job and am enjoying a comfortable retirement. However, I am not a mogul and do have strict rules about what I can do and what I can’t do economically. For no reason I can rationally offer, I have always considered myself middle middle class. Lower middle class offers life pictures that are not palatable to people, so those ranks are small, and poor people try to not think about the matter at all.

The interesting point to all this is that various nations of the world are now doing much better at economic recovery than we are. It has always been an American pastime to make fun of the Canadian economy and consider it a calamity to find a Canadian nickel among your change. Times have changed both in Canada and several European countries. They are all doing much better than we are at clawing their way back to prosperity and gemutlichkeit. That’s a German word. Have one of your children’s tutors explain it to you.

Milton Bass is a regular Eagle contributor.


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