The Middle Class – Part 1 of 6

The people and government of the US are co-conspirators in perpetuating the ambiguity, if not myth, of what is middle class. For most people there is no ambiguity. Middle class is what they are. Whether it’s by virtue of their income, education, or values and outlook; most people will say they are middle class. The government supports these assumptions and beliefs in a number of ways:

–      The US Census Bureau manipulates perception by manipulating the data it publishes: the way the data is organized to create the greatest amount of distraction from the wealthiest, by excluding data it knows but doesn’t want the public to know,
and by not being consistent  from one publication to the next

 –      The IRS and other government agencies manipulate perception, much like the US Census Bureau, in that the data used by one agency’s publication is inconsistent from that of other agencies, as well as, from itself from one publication to another

 –      Despite the frequent use of the term “middle class”; the people, the government, the media, economists, and everyone else refuses to clearly define to what ‘middle class’ refers.

Why the ambiguity?

The most obvious answer to this question is, “to ensure domestic tranquility”.

By not defining ‘middle class’ the government allows people, of nearly all incomes, to enjoy the misperception they are in it. An official definition would surely rob many of them of this fallacy and may cause discontent within and on both sides of the middle class income range.

An official definition would also preclude politicians from seeking broad support for legislation which clearly benefits only a particular class. For by defining ‘middle class’ the government would, by implication, be defining the others.

Some might argue that defining ‘middle class’ would be the first step toward restrictive social castes and the institutionalization of “untouchables”, the privileged, or a nobility. In response, one could point-out US history toward minorities, the handicapped, or the under-privileged. One could also consider the histories of South Africa, India, or any number of societies with or without legal discrimination and the move toward a more equal society. In making such comparisons it becomes obvious simply defining what already exists will not change the nature of it nor cause it to arise in a people not already predicated toward it.

Is Eternal

To say something, concerning humankind, “is eternal” is a conceit. But until it is proven as such let’s assume otherwise.

It is fair to speculate that every notable society pondered its eternality or its ending. Endings of this sort may seem rather debatable given that every generation of a society experiences its own time as a gradual unfolding of events; rarely, if ever, an ending and a new beginning.

The cumulative impact of these events is rarely clear at the time, if ever. In hindsight, the turning point toward a society’s failure to endure can be better seen even if not clearly. It’s rarely a single, major event but, rather, a series of minor ones that begin and perpetuate a deterioration as a cumulative affect.

It is interesting to read contemporaneous accounts of events that happened in the past. Some of these events might be all but forgotten now, except by historians or as blithe footnotes in the collective consciousness. But, at that time, the events may have seemed monumental. It is equally interesting to note that just the opposite is often as true; seemingly minor events take on historical importance or rememberance only long after the event has occured.

History is, in many ways, remembered eternally, though often in the unanticipated.

By The People

For the people, of any nation, to increasingly neglect the unalienable responsibilities of self-government, they begin to forfeit their claims to it.

Among others, the will of self-sacrifice, the pursuit of wisdom, the cherishment of truth, and the fostering of creative intellect all are requisite ideals of a people rightfully worthy of self-government. Bereft of such ideals and a people relinquish not only their claims to self-government but their capacity for it.

Self-government can not be bestowed nor can it be taken. It is an evolution of instinctive awareness that can not be perpetually denied. And yet, its strongest impulse is in its repression. For once it is liberated, in celebratory full flower, the strength of the people’s convictions and faithful dedication to their hopeful purpose begins to wane.

Of Ignorance and Indifference

An informed and engaged electorate is a cornerstone of any democracy.

While it does not pre-empt prejudice or bias or corruption. While it does not guarantee compassion or wisdom. And it does not ensure political efficiency or fairness. It is, never the less, a cornerstone in that the choices of such an electorate tend to be more thoughtfully derived and contribute positively to the collective voice, from which informed perspective and values come.

An informed and engaged electorate is more likely to take ownership of their democracy to a greater degree and correctly recognize its laws as the consequence of their vote. They are more likely to acknowledge and applaud its successes and take responsibility for its failures as their collective own.

By acknowledging their government and its laws as a product of their collective participation, they are less likely to seek governmental reform, in response to a symptom, but to seek electorate reform, in response to the underlying cause of their dissatisfactions.

In the U.S., there is nothing so insurmountably counter-productive, dysfunctional, or undermining, in form or process, that an informed and engaged electorate can not redress. It is only in their ignorance, and their indifference toward that ignorance, that they, the electorate; the cornerstone of democracy, can surely bring about democracy’s demise.

The Price

The price of being free, rich, and powerful; all at the same time, is to receive the envy, resentment, and distrust of those about you; even from one’s friends. It is an existence of perpetual constraint and disappointment.

Every act and inaction is scrutinized and judged under the harsh, revealing light of hindsight. Those whose suffering it was meant to relieve, once succored, are prone to condemn the consequences of the relief they sought and received.

When the consequences of action are thought to be less harmful than the suffering condition, but aren’t, the condemnation is swift and fervent. But when the consequences of action are thought to be more harmful than the suffering condition, the condemnation of inaction is still swift and fervent.

Historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1884-1975) is attributed to the unsourced quote, “America is like a large [friendly] dog in a small room. Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair.” Perhaps, from Toynbee’s British perspective, this attributed quote may be quite, understandably, expected. In many ways, the British may be singularly understanding, of the predicament described above, about the circumstances in which the United States often seems to be.

An analogous ‘friendly, large dog’ captures a certain perception other nations, if not former empires, might exchange for an analogous ‘benevolent, bi-polar giant’. By the terrible magnitude of its wealth and power the U.S. is often and always should be cautious in their use because of the often incalculable outcomes that may result. The freedom the U.S. is perceived to enjoy, in the use of its wealth and power, is further constrained by the nearly inevitable disappointment, if not fervent condemnation, that ensues and which, therefore, threatens its own perceived measure of freedom, wealth, and power.

Therefore, the cost of being free, rich, and powerful; all at the same time, is the unexpected need to be freer, richer, and more powerful; despite the ever-increasing rate of the concomitant burden.