Saturday, January 19, 2008


I've been reading Thom Hartmann's book, Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class--and what we can do about it. It's very interesting, if a little repetitive (he also has an annoying tendency to capitalize We the People all over the place, taking it from the Declaration of Independence, of course). This is an important book; Hartmann draws clear connections between the concentration of wealth in the upper 1 to 5 percent of the population (and the parallel shrinkage of the middle class and increase in poverty), the sabotage of public-spirited government, the growing influence of money politics (think corporate-financed lobbyists, legislation, etc.) to create corporate-friendly government, and the impending demise of democracy in the United States. He's nice and clear and succinct:
A true democracy both produces a middle class and requires a middle class for survival. Like the twin strands of DNA, democracy and the middle class are inextricably intertwined, and to break either is to destroy the viability of both.
This is the basic message of the book, and this connection of economics with democracy is crucial. The neo-con/Reaganite worship of "trickle-down economics" (also known as voodoo economics or the double-decker outhouse theory of economics) is basically the same old crap of them who has the gold, makes the rules--and those rules are for the benefit of the very few who have the gold. It's the same old aristocrats/peons method of government, and it's stupid, as Hartmann points out, because a large, educated, and prosperous middle class is an enormous economic and political engine, creating wealth and power for the nation. The neo-con view of the world is really a small-minded, grasping, short-sighted economic and political viewpoint. It reduces wealth, constricts and destroys democracy, and will bring down our nation eventually, if we keep going the way we are going. It concentrates power in a very few hands, and in so doing, strangles innovation.

Government and politics, run by the public-spirited politician and appointee elected by people who are voting for good government (rather than in fear), is a good thing that can strengthen the public arena for everybody. Alaska's gotten into serious trouble with corrupt officials--pay attention to what they espouse. These guys are corporate friendly (note that's not the same thing as friendly to small entrepeneurs) to a fault.

Follow the money on any government official, elected or appointed, and that's where the weak spots are. Are they supported by nonprofits or for-profits? That's the first question. Many small contributors or a few large ones? Local business and individuals or multinationals and people and organizations from Outside?


Robert Ellman said...

Hi Deirdre -

You might be interested to listen to two interviews I had with Thom. In October '06 we did a podcast about the book you just read. And recently, I interviewed him about his book "Breaking the Code." As always Hartmann is incisive.

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

I find it very interesting to be outside of the US watching all this unfold... It seems that only recently has the US public been waking up to what the rest of the world has known for quite a while.

This is in no way disrespectful to the US public (especially middle class), but I feel it shows just how much a little fear/brainwashing can blind the masses.

Ok, I'm off my soapbox now... back to being a goof!

Deirdre Helfferich said...

I think a lot of people have been aware of the way they've been getting shafted, and were hoping things would change with the last election. But no, and now Congress' approval rating in the polls is worse Cheney's, according to (not always an accurate source) FOX NEWS!