Democrats and Middle Class Left Are No Innocent Bystanders

Jacqueline S. Homan

A few months ago, The Nation ran an article about the disenchanted Americans struggling in Third World poverty who have been left behind by the very political party that promised “change.” Liberals (who received hefty funding from the AFL-CIO and other unions) fear they lost their support and vote from America’s Underclass — those of us struggling in deep poverty who have been economically excluded and socially marginalized — who got thrown under the bus for the benefit of middle class workers and their Democrat political candidates.

Of course, the problem is that in America, there is nothing but increasing apathy from the luckily employed lower-middle and middle class workers towards the horrendous poverty they are confronted with in their own backyard every day. There’s no sense that “we’re all in this together.”

Now, Democrats are worried that they will be unseated in the upcoming November elections and replaced with ultra-right-wing theocratic fascist candidates supported by big money and well-paid shills; the Tea Pottyers. My response was as follows:

If we’re going to starve, suffer from lack of access to medical care, suffer without housing and life-sustaining utilities, and be further punished for being poor by being denied access to education and jobs that pay enough to live on; what difference does voting really make if, either way, we get nothing but our faces ground deeper into the dirt?

Affirmative Action isn’t the answer. All that ever did was pit men against women, whites against non-whites, and young against old in an artificially limited opportunity pool where college admissions, union apprenticeships, and jobs with dignity were rationed. Because in capitalism, somebody always has to be at the bottom! There is no way to make that “fair” in any true sense of the word.

The Democrats haven’t just turned their backs on us after the most recent election of President Obama and an overwhelming majority of Democrat Congressmen. This has been going on for over 30 years since the Reagan Revolution. The Democrats didn’t just sit on the sidelines hand-cuffed to the bench as helpless bystanders while conservatives in Congress and the Reagan administration played a game of “let’s make the poor even poorer and more degraded and miserable.”

Reagan had to work with a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives in Congress in order for his trickle-down policies and draconian cuts to social programs to get passed and enacted. There were no policies enacted during Reagan’s two-term presidency that did not first meet the approval of the Democrat-controlled House.

And these guys were not elected by some Fairy Godmother — middle class votes, many from middle class white males in good-paying union jobs (that were and still are denied to poor women) put them in office based on their promise to cut already meager and inadequate welfare benefits, which disproportionately hurt poor women and children and the disabled. Blue-collar middle class union men who drank the Kool-Aid as they sucked up every word of Rush Limbaugh, an over-privileged gas bag who made his pile by peddling his gospel of hate for the poor, for “illegal” immigrants, and for women from his media pulpit.

The middle, upper-middle, and upper classes were Reagan’s electoral foot soldiers. The 1980’s was a time when the young (Gen-Xers) comprised a greater proportion of people living in poverty than at any point after the Great Society programs of the 1960’s. Why is that?

Reagan, Republicans in Congress (along with Democrat conspirators) dismantled the Great Society programs — beginning with CETA, the federally subsidized jobs program that provided employment opportunities for the most socio-economically disadvantaged groups of jobless people. CETA gave them a toehold on the jobs ladder.

"Classism For Dimwits" by Jacqueline S. Homan

Following the elimination of CETA were cuts to HUD Section 8 subsidized housing. These cuts took place during a brutal recession in which high school graduates from poverty and the working class were entering a job market that was fraying with the massive de-industrialization of America. The only jobs available required several years experience and/or a college degree in the new “Information Age” based economy.

But the passage of the Gramm-Rudman Bill slashed student aid for the needy, putting college and grad school out of reach for those from poverty in the mid to late 1980’s — all the while college tuition began to soar, outpacing inflation, as more and more jobs began requiring college degrees.

Those of us in poverty got denied opportunity, and then denied even the most miserly meager safety net in order to pay for some relief for the middle class — an entire group of Americans who never gave a shit about our problems so long as they got their piece of the pie, while never allowing us to join their ranks. We do not forget this.

They got their tax cuts paid for with cuts to LIHEAP (which had never been fully funded) so they could live comfortably while we freeze to death, or die in house fires from having to use candles and kerosene space heaters.

They got their unemployment benefits extension (the average amount being far more than what someone working for minimum wage or less gets working 40 hours a week) paid for with cuts to food stamps — the only “income” of the poorest of the jobless poor — so they can maintain their middle class standard of living while those of us in poverty are left to starve to death.

The middle class got tax breaks so they could buy nice homes while we are left to struggle without any homes of our own other than “tent cities”, our cars, a friend or relative’s couch, or a cot at a homeless shelter — if we can even get that. Then they have the temerity to tell us to buy organic locally grown food (which we can’t afford), and honor their picket lines and vote for their Democrat candidates.

And these same people have the moxy to call this a “democracy” while they tell those of us who are jobless without ANY income, who are destitute, hungry, without access to medical care, and without utilities (or even a home) to “stop whining”, that our turn will eventually come. Well, Halley’s Comet will eventually come too, but we can’t wait 75 years for our turn. We can’t afford to wait even one more year!

We’ve heard this same trickle-down spiel for the last 30 years. We’re not going to wait another 30 years, because we can’t. And we won’t. We’re no longer buying it. Instead of real change, all we got was chump change — if that.

It is obvious to us what all of our time volunteering for political candidates’ election campaigns and our votes gets for us in a capitalist, class-stratified society that never benefited us poor people because our needs never seem to matter. We see just how much petit bourgeois middle class “democracy” has done, and will do, for us.

When poor single mothers like Sylvia Young have to lose what little bit of nothing she had in a deadly house fire that also claimed the lives of three of her seven children because her utilities got cut off, and Michigan’s Democrat lawmakers and governor add insult to injury by persecuting her (a victim of capitalism) with trumped up bullshit charges of child neglect when the real criminals are DTE Energy — we know exactly what supporting faux democracy under capitalism (which ensures the poor never benefit in society) ultimately means for us.

When that man working for DTE Energy, enjoying his middle class union job with benefits enabling him to afford health care, a home, enough food, and his utilities, went to cut off Sylvia Young’s gas and electric on March 2, 2010 in Detroit’s freezing winter temperatures, he spoke with her less than two hours before her children died in the fire from a faulty space heater.

He saw her children.

He knew that cutting off her gas and electric was a death sentence for her and those children.

And what did he do? What was his response to the pleas from a poor single mother? “Sorry, I’ve got a job to do.”

How nice for him that he’s got a good union job and that it’s not him being slapped with a death sentence for the status crime of living while poor and female in our wonderful “democracy.”

I hope the burned and lifeless bodies of Sylvia Young’s three children — whose tiny pink and blue caskets and burial had to be paid for through community donations — are worth it to him, and all the other men with middle class union jobs at utility companies who got theirs while countless poor women across this country never got anything but shit and shoved in it with a backhand instead of a helping hand.

This labor day weekend while he and millions of other more fortunate middle class workers enjoy a paid holiday with cook-outs and plenty of food and entertainment, the three little children of Sylvia Young lay six feet under — never, ever able to enjoy a Labor Day holiday with hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. In fact, many of us in poverty (who are still alive) have no food at all this weekend and won’t be able to get any until the 10th of the month (five days from now) when our food stamps come.

It should be noted that not too long ago in central Europe, it was the trade unionists and social Democrats who allied themselves with Germany’s industrial petit bourgeoisie. They squeamishly distanced themselves from the German Communist Party (the KDP). Their support for “reform” of a deeply flawed capitalist and imperialist system allowed the Nazi horrors to unfold on European soil, culminating in Hitler’s “Final Solution.”

When three middle class engineers — Fritz Sander, Kurt Prüfer, and Karl Schultze — working for Topf and Son designed, patented, built the continual feed crematoria specifically for use in Nazi death camps; and willingly installed and maintained those ovens of hell on site, they were “just doing their job.”

After the war when these three men testified at the post-war trial in Erfart and were asked why they built those devices for human liquidation, knowing that innocent people were being destroyed, they said they were just being good German citizens supporting and obeying their government and they didn’t want to lose their middle class jobs and all the comforts, social prizes, and rewards that money can buy.



Funeral for Sylvia Young’s children who died on March 2, 2010 in a house fire — photo courtesy of wsws.org.

Jacqueline S. Homan, author: Classism For Dimwits

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17 Responses to “Democrats and Middle Class Left Are No Innocent Bystanders”

  1. K M Venugopalan Says:

    Well said.

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  3. DONALD Says:

    This is a thoughtful article on those who are in the so called “underclass” and who are not benefiting from the prosperity we have in working America. I would take issue would that assessment.
    Unions have been the target of the right wing for the last 30 years starting with the message Ronald Reagan gave to corporate America when he fired the Air Traffic Controllers.
    At that time I warned that if the progressives and Unions didn’t unite and hold him responsible for breaking his promise with the head of the air traffic controllers the unions would get weaker and weaker over time.
    They did.
    The corporations would love to read this assessment and have liberals and progressives fight with each other. Nothing better than liberals fighting with liberals.
    The Unions have not thrown the unemployed under the bus. The AFT and United Federations supported the paraprofessionals right to organize and helped them pursue a path to full middle class status and all the benefits of the rest of the union members.
    If we are too progress together we must stand united together. When you site a Nazi concentration murderer who said he didn’t want to lose his middle class job …you make it hard to sympathize with your reasoning.
    What is your solution? You offer criticism of unions, evidence that is not logical to support it, and when you are asked to organize and become part of a labor union their is little passion to become a part of the movement.
    You are left to trust corporate America that sends the poorest people to war and doesn’t treat them well when they return.
    We are more polarized than ever. The Democrats include too many members who act like Republicans. We need to get rid of those Democrats in primaries. Where were all the voters in these recent primaries when more progressive Democrats competed against centrist Democrats. IF you have no reason to vote and you stay home the results are disasterous. Fight back. Republican or Democrat..get angry. If you sit back stay home ..THEY WIN.

    • Jacqueline S. Homan Says:

      “So-called underclass?” Wow. You’re no champion of the poor (working or unemployed) when you deny we even exist! As someone who had been a homeless teen faced with no options to support myself in a white male middle/upper class world, I have far more authority on this matter than you: a political candidate according to your MySpace page (obviously you must have money and a certain degree of social class privilege or you couldn’t run for office)

      My criticism of unions is based on my own personal experience as a poor woman who was discriminated against for opportunities by the men who ran them. 20 years ago (before becoming disabled in a car accident), I was the first female admitted to the plasterers’ union. I heard my union “brothers” listen to Rush Limbaugh blaring on the radio on the job and they bragged about voting for Reagan because they resented paying taxes to support “welfare queens” — while they openly begrudged THIS woman an equal opportunity for a job so I could make a living in a job with dignity outside of prostitution or strip dancing or “getting pregnant for the welfare check” (the only “jobs” available to poor women from the underclass). I had my tires slashed and my truck vandalized by union “brothers” for being a woman “taking away a man’s job”, even though women don’t get to pay less to live than a white middle class male! My indictment stands.

      Secondly, you apparently do not understand the nature of fascism or its imminent threat here in America today. You ask me what my solution is, so I will tell you: scrap capitalism, period. It is the capitalist construct itself that is the problem. Unions allow capitalism to maintain a toehold. It’s the proverbial nose of the camel poking through the tent, and pretty soon the camel is completely inside the tent. Karl Marx pegged this situation dead on when he said:

      “The democratic petit bourgeois, far from wanting to transform the whole society in the interests of the revolutionary proletarians, only aspire to a change in social conditions which will make the existing society as tolerable and comfortable for themselves as possible.”

      Leon Trotsky concurred and raised a valid point in discussing this issue in his 1938 article “The Priests Of Half-Truths“:

      “This philosophy reflects their own world. By their social nature they are intellectual semi-bourgeois. They feed upon half-thoughts and half-feelings. They wish to cure society by half-measures. Regarding the historical process as too unstable a phenomenon, they refuse to engage themselves more than 50%, Thus, these people, living by half-truths, that is to say, the worst sort of falsehood, have become a genuine brake upon truly progressive,i.e., revolutionary thought.”

      The ONLY solution for any genuine social equality is an international solidarity with the poor and working classes of every nation in the class struggle. Since capital is global and capitalists operate and abuse and exploit at will in the global theater, the struggle for social justice must also be global.

    • UnEasyOne Says:

      Jimmy Hoffa endorsed Nixon. The Teamsters were the biggest union in the country, at one point having the power to shut down the country. They sold out their membership and allowed the mafia to steal their pension funds.

      Once the most liberal union in the country, the UAW sold out to management decades ago, assisting in the destruction of the American automobile industry. Powerful Dem Congressman Dingel and the unions aligned with management to thwart meaningful regulation, especially mandates for increased fuel efficiency. This at least hastened the decline and may have ultimately destroyed the American automobile industry.

      Meanwhile, the 70s and 80s became the era of the sweetheart deal as union management found themselves with more in common economically and otherwise with the management they were supposed to oppose than the members they were supposed to represent.

      Strikes, the only real weapon workers have against oppression by management, suddenly fell out of favor. And we see that result today.

      And here is my own union worker anecdote:

      In ’71 I worked for the railroad. As soon as I completed my probationary period and became virtually impossible to fire, I let my hair grow out. My “brothers” harassed me more about it than management did. One time the president of our local and I were on the same job, riding the caboose for a couple of hours.

      He drew me out about my political views, antiwar status and a lot of other stuff, earnestly promising complete confidence. Then, of course, he broadcast the entire conversation far and wide. I was literally hated by large numbers of my “brothers.” And they have ways of getting rid of people they don’t like – the easy way or the hard way.

      SEIU is just about the only union worthy of the name, these days. Maybe also the farmworkers still qualify, but from my perspective, they haven’t seemed to do a lot in the absence of Chavez.

  4. Middle-Class Families Forced to Turn to Jewish Food Banks | AttorneyPlanet.info Says:

    […] Democrats and Middle Class Left Are No Innocent Bystanders … […]

  5. Lily H. Says:

    Interesting account of “the good germans”, Jacquie! Where did you find this nugget? My window of attempting to reach the middle-class was short-lived, from about the mid-70’s to early 80’s. Aside from taking and passing three gov’t tests, I got absolutely NOWHERE in my search for a foot-hold for a decent job, and neither did my then-husband, even with a brand-new business degree (him, not me).
    I recall the heyday of the Rush Limbaugh era; had a boss who did nothing but listen to him every afternoon while driving sales accounts, and this was a foreign-born one at that, I think from India. I just can’t understand the logic of these so-called “fellow” blue-collar workers you related; didn’t they think that if you didn’t get a decent job, you might wind up on welfare? Guess they figured low-end jobs were good enough for their own wives and girl-friends, they were good enough for you!
    Speaking of job opportunities for the moneyed class, my step-niece, raised in upper-middle-class luxury, is sucking up more than her fair share by taking a paralegal program AFTER completing a degree in a Law minor at a top-tier university. She’s found she can’t get a decent job without a law degree, so she’s taking the best next avenue available for an English major who doesn’t have an iota of doing anything related to such; teaching OR librarian — not sexy enough, apparently. Technically, she could have taken a paralegal program straight out of high school like so many under her social class have done, but she (and her family) wanted the “benefit” of attending a top-drawer prestigious university. See how the upper classes have to suck it up even at their level? Oh, and of course, she lives at home in Step-Daddy’s five-bedroom McMansion in the suburbs and commutes “down here in the city”. Wonderful, another over-educated, cute bimbette who will probably work for a few years, then chuck it all to get married, anyway.
    By contrast, my working-class daughter, although married to a man who makes good money as a computer engineer, still strives for a career in her own right; as a manicurist, first took classes through our city college program, then had to drop out due to illness forcing her withdraw thereof.
    She continued through a private program her husband gladly paid for, and finished, but is awaiting an opening to take the State boards to get her license. She put off an earlier chance to tend to a friend who was brutally attacked and nearly died, after spending weeks in the hospital.
    Would someone like my niece stop HER studies to do something like that? Most likely not, as all the upper-class is taught is “Look out for #1 — anything (or anyone) else is second”. In the meantime, my daughter is working, restoring her vintage vehicle by hand, piece by piece, with help from her older brother. What would my step-niece do? “Daddy, I need a NEW car”, a la Paris Hilton.

    • Jacqueline S. Homan Says:

      Hi Lilian,

      Good to hear from you 🙂 I found that tidbit on the “good Germans” when I inadvertently learned that the manufacturer of the crematoria was Topf and Son, and they were so proud of their “invention” for which they got a patent from the Patent Office in Berlin the oven doors were stamped with the name “Topf and Son.” The applicants for the patents required documentation. Not hard to find.

      • UnEasyOne Says:

        If it was the movies, the union worker would have refused to shut off that gas, the community would have rallied ’round, and those lives would have been saved.

        If you aren’t willing to walk off a job rather than do something so clearly evil – which I have done – then any pretense of morality or ethics on your part is pure hypocrisy.

        But times are really tough. If the guy had walked off that job, maybe it would have been his family instead. And somebody else would have shut off that gas anyway.

        So who am I to judge?

        That is what our system does to us all; it forces us to drop any pretense of ethical behavior in favor of survival.

  6. Parzival Says:

    Conveniently, the very same members of the “educated” class, are the ones who either opted out of taking history, or have forgotten history entirely. They are the ones who are propagandized to uphold bogus work ethic myths, and subscribe to fictions of capitalism ‘rising all boats.’
    Now lets look at the next distraction that the middle-class is buying into and is largely responsible for through an increase in xenophobia across the country; blaming immigrants for most of the social ills of this country, and all of capitalism’s defects.
    There are the repugnant Republican’t politicians like Senate Minority leader Mitch Mc Connell from KY, who supports a review of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. He and his fellow repug in office, Senator Lindsey Graham of SC, support introducing a Constitutional Amendment that would stop citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants.
    You know if we’re going to amend the 14th Amendment, which arguably created the phenomenon of what are referred to as “Anchor babies,” let’s also amend the 14th Amendment to insert the word “Natural” before the word “person” so that Amendment can no longer be used by Republicans and the Supreme Court to grant “personhood” rights to Corporations! But I digress… Before the Reagan era, immigration issues were kept in check by strong enforcement mechanisms that went after those that HIRED undocumented workers. Under Reagan, all enforcement measures were defunded, leaving unaccountable tyrannies, also known as Corporations, a free hand in hiring undocumented workers for less than minimum wage.
    The unrelenting class war by the business class upon the middle and impoverished classes in the last 30 years is largely responsible for the excesses and disparity between the haves and have nots. Some of those excesses include a return to child labor, and in some instances and quite literally, human bondage and slavery of undocumented workers. There is nothing else for it, Capitalism and all Command style economics, known also as Soviet style Communism, must finally find its way to the ash heap of history, and be replaced with something more humane that benefits the most amount of people throughout the world. Our very survival as a species depends on this.

    • Jacqueline S. Homan Says:

      The “experts” and talking heads of questionable credibility who spoke of rising tides lifting all boats deliberately refrained from mentioning that capitalism is more like a rogue wave than a rising tide. Rogue waves deluge and drown all but the largest of nuclear powered Nimitz class aircraft carriers.

    • UnEasyOne Says:

      A) Amen about the 14th amendment.

      B) I have contended for years that the flood of illegal immigrants could be ended overnight by tossing a few CEOs in jail for hiring them. I could devise a program in about 15 minutes. Of course, our overlords benefit hugely from the cheap labor and the consequent lowering of wages for lower class citizens.

      C) History is too subversive to be taught honestly to the lower classes. I didn’t learn jack about it in school. They managed to turn a subject that fascinates me endlessly into the most incredible bore imaginable.

      Well said.

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  8. UnEasyOne Says:

    Good article – and you have managed to attract some intelligent commentary/commenters. Glad I dropped in.

  9. Tom Degan Says:

    Excellent site you have here, Jacqueline.

    All the best,

    Tom Degan

  10. Cormany, M Says:

    Came over by link after the incredible post you wrote on Degan’s article about the Dem base on Alternet. I don’t feel quite as bad at how illiterate I felt my post was after seeing all your wonderful writing and work on here. Keep up the beautiful yelling. Not enough voices of this caliber cutting through the regressive din. I love that you are saying what almost no one does – until we get past the us vs them petty BS and realize this is an international class struggle, we aren’t going to get very far because the powers have what should be brothers and associates killing each other, either literally or economically. And most people on every side fall for the demonization of ‘them’ every time. Heading to Amazon to pick up a copy of your book.
    Best of luck.
    Mike Cormany
    miketherevelator

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