Thursday, 9 September 2010


Spiegel Online : The Erosion of America's Middle Class

  • Thursday, 9 September 2010
  • Fouad GM
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  • For social scientists and political economists dedicating their time to the study of the middle classes and bourgeoisies in the latter-developing countries of the middle and near east, this article will perhaps trigger a lot of thoughts. Much of the middle east's illnesses, for instance, are blamed on the absence and failure to develop an indigenous middle class and a national bourgeoisie rooted in society and culture. This has been the case since the advent of capitalism in the mid-19th century, but has been all the more alarming since the neoliberal global economy was ushered in on us in the early 1990s.

    But it seems, this is not just an issue for developing countries. Here, Spiegel's Thomas Schulz writes of the eroding middle class in the world's oldest democracy and most important economy - the USA.

    On the Way Down

    The Erosion of America's Middle Class

    By Thomas Schulz

    While America's super-rich congratulate themselves on donating billions to charity, the rest of the country is worse off than ever. Long-term unemployment is rising and millions of Americans are struggling to survive. The gap between rich and poor is wider than ever and the middle class is disappearing.

    Ventura is a small city on the Pacific coast, about an hour's drive north of Los Angeles. Luxury homes with a view of the ocean dot the hillsides, and the beaches are popular with surfers. Ventura is storybook California. "It's a well-off place," says Captain William Finley. "But about 20 percent of the city is what we call at risk of homelessness." Finley heads the local branch of the Salvation Army.

    Last summer Ventura launched a pilot program, managed by Finley, that allows people to sleep in their cars within city limits. This is normally illegal, both in Ventura and in the rest of the country, where local officials and residents are worried about seeing run-down vans full of Mexican migrant workers parked on residential streets.

    But sometime at the beginning of last year, people in Ventura realized that the cars parked in front of their driveways at night weren't old wrecks, but well-tended station wagons and hatchbacks. And the people sleeping in them weren't fruit pickers or the homeless, but their former neighbors.

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