Elizabeth Warren is one of the best describers of what has happened to the middle class in America and all over the western world.
She has again and again told her story of growing up in an average middle class home in the 1950’s and then watching the bottom fall out when her father had a heart attack.
She describes that her mother, at that time, could still take up the slack by getting a job at the Montgomery wards catalog store. By just her salary alone, her mother earned enough to support the entire family until Elizabeth’s father could recover.
And then Warren goes on to describe in detail how that could no longer happen in the America we live in now.
One of Warren’s best books is called This fight is Our Fight. In this book she retells the story of her childhood and then goes on to tell the stories of how many people of today’s middle class, no matter how hard they work, are no longer making it.
Below are a few paragraphs from this book where she briefly describes what has happened to the middle class and how we got to where we are now.
She begins this section of the book with the night she and her husband were watching the 2016 election returns come in and realize that Trump was going to be elected president and that many of the Democrats who are trying to help middle class Americans were also being defeated.
“Sure, there would be endless autopsies of the 2016 campaigns, but as that long night wore on, I found myself thinking less about the political winds and more about how the fallout from this election would deliver one more body blow to so many working families.
The television showed crowds of candidates and supporters celebrating or grieving, but what haunted me was the thought that for tens of millions of Americans, life was about to get a whole lot tougher.
Long before I ever came within a hundred miles of politics, I had been a teacher and a researcher. I had spent years tracking what was happening to America’s middle class, what was happening to working families and families that wanted to be working families. It was a great and terrible story.
The tale of America coming out of the Great Depression and not only surviving but actually transforming itself into an economic giant is the stuff of legend. But the part that gives me goose bumps is what we did with all that wealth: over several generations, our country built the greatest middle class the world had ever known. We built it ourselves, using our own hard work and the tools of government to open up more opportunities for millions of people. We used it all—tax policy, investments in public education, new infrastructure, support for research, rules that protected consumers and investors, antitrust laws—to promote and expand our middle class.
The spectacular, shoot-off-the-fireworks fact is that we succeeded. Income growth was widespread, and the people who did most of the work—the 90 percent of America—also got most of the gains. In the 1960s and 1970s, I was one of the lucky beneficiaries of everything America was building, and to this day, I am grateful to the bottom of my soul.
But now, in a new century and a different time, that great middle class is on the ropes. All across the country, people are worried—worried and angry. They are angry because they bust their tails and their income barely budges. Angry because their budget is stretched to the breaking point by housing and health care. Angry because the cost of sending their kid to day care or college is out of sight. People are angry because trade deals seem to be building jobs and opportunities for workers in other parts of the world, while leaving abandoned factories here at home. Angry because young people are getting destroyed by student loans, working people are deep in debt, and seniors can’t make their Social Security checks cover their basic living expenses. Angry because we can’t even count on the fundamentals—roads, bridges, safe water, reliable power—from our government. Angry because we’re afraid that our children’s chances for a better life won’t be as good as our own.
People are angry, and they are right to be angry. Because this hard-won, ruggedly built, infinitely precious democracy of ours has been hijacked.
Today this country works great for those at the top. It works great for every corporation rich enough to hire an army of lobbyists and lawyers. It works great for every billionaire who pays taxes at lower rates than the hired help. It works great for everyone with the money to buy favors in Washington. Government works great for them, but for everyone else, this country is no longer working very well.
This is the most dangerous kind of corruption. No, it’s not old-school bribery with envelopes full of cash. This much smoother, slicker, and better-dressed form of corruption is perverting our government and making sure that day after day, decision after decision, the rich and powerful are always taken care of. This corruption is turning government into a tool of those who have already gathered wealth and influence. This corruption is hollowing out America’s middle class and tearing down our democracy.
In 2016, into this tangle of worry and anger, came a showman who made big promises. A man who swore he would drain the swamp, then surrounded himself with the lobbyists and billionaires who run the swamp and feed off government favors. A man who talked the talk of populism but offered the very worst of trickle-down economics. A man who said he knew how the corrupt system worked because he had worked it for himself many times. A man who vowed to make America great again and followed up with attacks on immigrants, minorities, and women. A man who was always on the hunt for his next big con.”
The image at the top of this page is of a beautiful cascade
in Rocky Mountain National Park