The ability to become indebted is what provides the means of a middle class standard of living. And when it comes down to it, as David Graeber laid out, the 2008 crash can be seen as a fight between who has the ability to create credit out of nothing, and who doesn’t.
It was obviously not the people who were making $200,000 a year, or even $400,000 year – even if those people were part of the institutions that were made whole, it was based on their access to those institutions, run by people like Jamie Dimon, Timothy Geithner, etc. These are the people that have an open line to policy makers, Geitner of course serving as Obama’s Secretary of Treasury.
We need to go after people with real power
The idea that $200,000 is in any way similar to the lifestyle of Bezos, Diamond or others misses that their billions are inextricably tied to their lifestyle. The fact that Jeff Bezos can go to the moon on a whim one afternoon because he wants to speaks to a structural rot in our economy.
Warren Buffet lives a frugal lifestyle relative to other billionaires, trying to signal middle class status, maybe similar to someone making $170,000. Almost imposing an idea that once you have a house, healthcare, and vacations, that you are living like a billionaire. However, to address wealth disparity, we need to increase class awareness, and the focus should be on those who have the ability to affect entire sectors of the economy on a whim. People who funnel money into thousands of different tax protected organizations that totally change the political landscape of the country. People who expend more energy than some countries. These are the people we need to focus on.
Despite important real differences, someone who is making $200,000 a year, who is probably working all hours of the day – that is not to say that they work hard and deserve the money, or play into the idea of the deserving wealth or deserving poor, because a dignified life should not be contingent on working hard or long hours – but this hypothetical person is probably working class because the means of their life depend on the fact that they work for their livelihood, whereas someone who is making for example $1m, $5m, or more can create capital that recreates itself and live off their wealth.
Being working class is not a dollar figure
Being working class is not about a dollar figure, it is about how you spend your time, and focusing on taxing people who make $400,000, people who are the media and part of the most vociferous class, but still distinctly working class; focusing on these peopke is not helpful or a good use of time, because it is the people making much more than that that we need to do something about.
In any case, the idea of the middle class, the professional managerial class, the media class, all papers over the entire structural dynamic that enters the picture when you are looking at 1M dollars a year or more. It heightens interclass tensions, and fails to focus on the increase to the corporate tax rate at a time when it is currently the lowest it has been in our nation’s history despite historic profits that are pretty much only going to people like Bezos. There is a direct wealth transfer that we can see, and democrats cannot be shamed to even do anything about it. And instead they focus on fiddling with the margins, impacting people with little more real power than those at the bottom rungs of the working class.
It’s like they want to fail
You might even say that if you wanted to design a policy to fail, or lead to the most in fighting among the plebs as possible, you might design a tax increase to hit prominent members of the media, many of whom make multiple millions of dollars a year, and others who are at the $400,000 mark. You would focus your attention on the precarious middle class, who feel that precarity and act on it politically.
At the end of the day it’s worth restating, access to credit is what is supporting the “lifestyle” and speaks to how precarious that class / lifestyle really is. Focusing policy on these people is a distraction that is a helpful obfuscator for those in power to conquer and divide the working class.
We want to create a world where not only can people live a dignified life regardless of their work ethic, or their deservedness, but where people understand that we all deserve to live a dignified life. And we are not just talking about American citizens. We are talking about the globe. The reason to define the working class is not to convince those making over $200,000, we likely will not convince many of them.
It’s all about focus
It is not to obscure who we need to fight, many in the Elizabeth Warren camp fell into this segment, they could not see their lot as aligned with the poor, and did what they could to kill Bernie’s run. The purpose it to bring clarity to our movement, so that we can proceed with the courage of our convictions, knowing what we need to do, and those that we need to convince with the open heart understanding that so many are taken advantage of by the system. These are people who it can be worth to try and convince, not leave behind, but we must keep the focus so that we can get to the structural changes we need. It’s about who to focus on and who’s power to challenge, the middle managers of this country are better off than the bottom rungs of the working class, but they don’t command the power in our economy, and they should be part of our movement, not a self created challenge to it.