Middle Class Was 'Historical Fluke'—and We Let It Die
Edward McClelland thinks government action is necessary to prevent aristocracy
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Sep 23, 2013 1:55 PM CDT
In this Thursday, May 30, 2013, photo, job seekers line up to talk to recruiters during a job fair held in Atlanta.   (AP Photo/John Amis)

(Newser) – It's a sign of Edward McClelland's age that he remembers the middle class. He grew up in an automaking town in the 1970s, where even high school dropouts could get jobs that would support a family and a mortgage payment. Everyone assumed this was capitalism's triumphant endpoint, that it "had produced the worker's paradise to which Communism unsuccessfully aspired," McClelland writes at Salon. Now, that prosperity looks like a "historical fluke," a brief denial of normal economic trends made possible because the US emerged from World War II with its manufacturing base unharmed.

"For the majority of human history … there have been two classes; aristocracy and peasantry," McClelland observes. Left unfettered, capitalism will tend to reinforce that trend, "concentrating wealth in the ownership class." This drift "can only be arrested by an activist government that chooses to step in as a referee." But the US has been on a 40-year deregulation kick, running through Democratic and Republican administrations alike. The result: "The greatest disparity between the top earners and the middle earners in nearly a century." Click for McClelland's full column.

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Sep 24, 2013 5:17 PM CDT
The author is correct. The post-WWII prosperity that took American workers out of farms and urban tenements after we defeated and bombed out the other major economies- German and Japan - was a short terms fluke. In ancient times, after defeating neighboring countries and bringing home treasure, slaves, and tribute, victor countries had uptick in prosperity as a result. But it rarely lasted very long. When trade came back, small elites prospered while the majority went back to subsistence farming. Today, our "peasants" work at subsistence jobs in restaurants, fast food outlets, shopping malls, etc. The wealthy invest in overseas factories and produce cheap goods to sell back here. That's just the way it works.
Sep 24, 2013 9:50 AM CDT
It is natural and healthy for civilizations to have a tiny middle class. Most civilizations throughout history are made up of Aristocrats, wealthy business men and the poor. Americans need to get use to this natural fact.
Sep 24, 2013 7:34 AM CDT
The article syas something I have been saying for years: the USA came out of WW2 with their industrial capacity still in tact & totally leading the world in all aspects. It took about 30 years for the rest of the world to get back on track & catch up. I know a man (born about 1946) who dropped out of school in the 9th grade. In the late 1960's he moved to a city where, in one week (let me repeat this, in one single week) he got jobs at International Harverster (he quit because the work was too hard), General Electric (he quit because he didn't "like the way they did things") & at Ford (he retired from Ford). This is 100% true, that is how easy it was to find a job in those days. Not just a job, but a really good job. The retirement pension dream has dismantled much of America's jobs. Like that statement or not it is true. The country & its industries can not afford to pay for people's retirements anymore; it is becoming a thing of the past. These benefits along with the high wages paid while working is not sustainable. The baby boomer generation got those jobs, they got the benefits, they got the pensions, they got the cheap houses & opportunities. The rest of us are stuck here saying "WTF"???? BTW, my friend that retired from Ford told me recently that he probably couldn't get a job working at Dairy Queen on 3rd shift in this day & time. His exact words, not mine.