25 June 2006

The Middle Class

Massachusetts, and New England, and the East Coast generally, are typically held to be welfare statist areas where generous programs look after the needs of the poor to the expense of everyone else. My time, albeit brief, in Worcester, MA, taught me otherwise. I have never encountered any area in this country where things seemed so well-designed toward the goal of relentlessly screwing the poor as much as humanly possible, whether it be the 1-dollar trashbags mandated for "environmental" reasons or the hordes of towtrucks that would descend on random streets in the early morning and tow hundreds of illegally parked cars, which cost several hundred dollars to get back. The most important element seemed to be the educational system. As far as I can tell, people who go to technical school or whatnot are typically expected to start drooling in their oatmeal at any moment. In other words, everyone who can goes to college, and those who don't encounter extremely significant class-based prejudice. What's the purpose of this? Education plays an extremely important role in the ascription of status - very few jobs actually require a college education, but the sacrifice involved in getting one is greater than what most of the poor can afford, so they are denied entry to the higher classes. Even with financial aid, the foregone income is easily the most important element in this inability to attend school further.
So why are some people kept on the bottom like this?
Keeping people on the bottom keeps them from being able to fill middle-class jobs, which ensures that the present middle-class has a steady supply of work.
I would bet that several trillion dollars have been spent to subisidize this middle class (which I consider to be artificial because of those same subsidies) over the past 50-odd years, through road building, schools, other public works, student loans, and government backing/financing of home mortgages.
So what's the purpose of all of this?
The answer becomes fairly apparent once one looks at what the middle class support. They are typically the strongest backers of the status quo. And why? Because the status quo has given them easily trillions of dollars over the past few decades in subsidies.
And there's always a but! This system is growing increasingly unsustainable, hence the steadily widening gap between the rich and the poor. Our quasi-corporatist system is reverting to what it would have been without this support, and without this support, it won't last.