Which America Do You Live In?

My father was called up for service in World War II when I was a toddler, and when the war ended, I was still far too young to comprehend what “war” really meant. But one of the most vivid memories I have of those days was coming across my mother reading something called “The Black Book,” and crying.

The book was a compendium of Nazi atrocities. My mother said I was too young to hear about such things (as I recall, I was about five) but that I should always remember how lucky I was to live in the United States.

Years later, I read multiple historical and sociological analyses in an effort to understand how the Nazis came to power, how otherwise good people could participate in–or turn a blind eye to–what was happening. The lesson I took away began with an economic reality: when people are experiencing economic insecurity and privation–especially if they see that others are flourishing– resentments suppressed in better times surface, and the very human need to find someone or some group to blame for loss of status and/or security becomes incredibly easy for demagogues to manipulate.

There’s a reason that loss of the American middle class is so dangerous.

A recent book by an MIT economist paints a very troubling picture: America is now two countries, and one of those countries looks a lot like the third world.

 Peter Temin, Professor Emeritus of Economics at MIT, believes the ongoing death of “middle America” has sparked the emergence of two countries within one, the hallmark of developing nations. In his new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, Temin paints a bleak picture where one country has a bounty of resources and power, and the other toils day after day with minimal access to the long-coveted American dream.

In his view, the United States is shifting toward an economic and political makeup more similar to developing nations than the wealthy, economically stable nation it has long been. Temin applied W. Arthur Lewis’s economic model – designed to understand the workings of developing countries – to the United States in an effort to document how inequality has grown in America.

Temin describes multiple contributing factors in the nation’s arrival at this place, from exchanging the War on Poverty for the War on Drugs to money in politics and systemic racism. He outlines the ways in which racial prejudice continues to lurk below the surface, allowing politicians to appeal to the age old “desire to preserve the inferior status of blacks”, encouraging white low-wage workers to accept their lesser place in society.

Temin lists policies that could begin to ameliorate the economic divide: Expanding education, updating infrastructure, forgiving mortgage and student loan debt, and programs to encourage social mobility for all Americans.

Right now, of course, the clear priority of Congress–let alone the current, deranged occupant of the Oval Office–is tax reduction for the wealthy at the expense of the already disadvantaged.

What’s that famous Santayana quote? Those who who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.


  1. His account is accurate and solutions are progressive in nature. One only need to look at the last election to see how the Democratic Party is working against progressive solutions.


    Obama promised us progressivism and then found his cabinet being picked by Citibank – his largest donor. When you consider the financial atrocities committed against this country by bankers, not a single banker should have been allowed anywhere near the White House.

    There is no “right-left” political spectrum. It’s a top-down corporate hierarchy. Politicians and the propaganda media don’t serve the people – they serve those at the top. Homeland Security is the Oligarchs protective services – their own personal ADT.

    They are well aware what is coming when Americans wake up from the fraud being committed against them. The system is rigged. The American Dream is a fraud.

    What’s interesting is all the Vladimir Putin interviews on the internet these days. He talks freely about the Deep State which runs our country behind the scenes. He could care less who is elected as POTUS because he knows they have very little power.

    Americans keep switching their votes hoping it will make a difference, but it never does. Our condition keeps getting worse under corporate fascism. Under Trump, our negative circumstances have sped up and he claimed to be a “populist”. LOL

  2. The coup that put the “deep state” in charge happened on Friday, November 22, 1963 at 12:30 p.m Central Standard Time in Dallas, Texas.

  3. Let us not forget that the depths of the antisemitism displayed by the Nazi was fueled by a change at the turn of that century in how the public viewed the Jews. The idea that religion was what designated one a Jew was replaced by the idea that all Jews were of a different race and an inferior race at that.

    Economics drove the German people into Hitler’s camp, but the use of racism to focus blame on the Jews for any and all problems the country faced united the majority in their attempt to rule Europe and purify the white race.

  4. This is, of course, simply the continuation of a trend that has been going on for quite some time. cf Andrew Hacker, Two Nations.

  5. Frank Luntz, a Republican political consultant, will be featuring the current opinions of trump supporters in an hour long program on CBSN.

    I watched a short clip of it this morning. Those supporters view trump’s aggressive behavior as positive. When asked their opinion of him pushing a fellow leader aside in order to be front and center in a photo op, they all saw it as good leadership and agreed with his assault on the other leader. They viewed it as a strong show of American leadership in the world.

    Luntz was shocked at their opinions and answers to many of his questions.

    If you are able to watch the show this evening, it could be very enlightening to see how the minds of the trump supporters actually work (or don’t).

  6. Nancy,

    Luntz was shocked, just like Claude Rains was shocked in “Casablanca”. He has spent his working life creating those opinions. The fact that CBS has hired him shows how cowed they are by the right wing nut cases in this country. They lost all credibility when they fired Dan Rather for telling the truth about Bush 43.

  7. Well, that’s nice that someone from MIT wrote a book about the middle class’s problems. In 2013, I published my own book on the subject titled “Killing the Dream: America’s Flirtation With Third World Status” (Amazon.com and The Kindle Store). Sadly, my predictions, like Marx’s, are coming true every day we have to endure the horrors of the Trump administration and its psychotic leader.

  8. Voting these days means very little as candidates are bought and paid for by the monied interests. My observation was that it began in earnest around the time of Reagan and “trickle-down economics.” Now it has become highly unlikely that a paid for member of Congress can be displaced by candidates who are truly wanting to serve the interests of the middle and lower economic classes, the real grit of America.

    Unfortunately, the shooter at the Republican baseball practice session had concluded that he had to take matters into his own hands if there were to be economic justice in America. If his action is replicated many times, there eventually will be a draining of the swamp. Don’t think this can’t happen with all the guns out there in the hands of unstable people. Anarchy has a way of raising its ugly head in troubled times.

  9. I agree with Todd Smekens and he brings up some good points.

    It’s too bad the amount of criticism thrown at Trump wasn’t given to GW Bush. It’s also disheartening to know Democrat President Obama continued many of Bush’s bad policies. Yet,many here worship Obama. Brand loyalty is dangerous. Brand loyalty is very important to the readers of this blog. Whether that brand loyalty is Republican or Democrat, it is dangerous.

    The problems within this country didn’t start at the onset of Trump’s presidency. So,where have the Democrats been for the past 40 years? Enabling the rot. Moreover,we have become the Nazis. Our military projects in Libya,Syria,Iraq and Afghanistan are proof of our aggressive militarism. It’s also worth mentioning our underhanded and foul activities in the Ukraine,Honduras and Haiti. In fact,the chosen candidate by the majority on this very forum was the woman supported by Madeliane Albright. The very same Albright that said the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children are worth the efforts to further “our” agenda. In a just society,Albright and those just like her would be ostracized and called out as the racist psychopaths they truly have proven themselves to be.

    I disagree with the professor. I don’t find the middle-class to be dangerous and feared. Hell,they might be the only folks that can save our democracy. The country will not be saved by lobbyists,bloggers beholden to a political party and/or by multimillionaire politicians. Change for the positive will not come from the DNC anymore-so than from the Republican party.

  10. Peggy, you bring up a valid point. However, I still will find it interesting to hear the trump supporters’ reasons on this evening’s show.

    William, I believe that most of us agree that the Democratic party has done nothing for the middle class and is very much aligned with Wall Street. My belief is that until we can create a viable third or independent party to represent the current and former members of the middle class, the oligarchs will continue to gain political and financial power and will continue to decimate the middle class.

  11. William, please reread the original post. Sheila has never claimed that the middle class is dangerous, just the opposite: she says the continuing LOSS of the middle class is dangerous.

  12. Fmontyr; I wonder if any Republicans have considered their support of the NRA and believing everyone who wants a gun has the right to have one is how the shooter of Republicans and the officers at baseball practice was one of THEIR everyones who wanted a gun and got it/them? Can we consider this part of their “trickle down” policy regarding gun rights? We haven’t seen evidence of them getting up in arms (NO pun intended) about the killing rate with guns of innocent people of other than Christian (their version) religions or Blacks or Hispanics or LGBTQs. Yes; this shooting was and continues to be a terrible thing to happen but they were not so verbal when it was 49 Puerto Rican gays or 20 – TWENTY – first and second graders and 6 of their teachers.

    The Georgia election of Jon Ossoff is a vital one at this time for the entire country; it can head us in the correct direction to begin “cleaning House” and Senate of Republicans who uphold the White Nationalists, those who are so far right we could push them over the edge of the flat world they live on if we find the strength and the money. The voters are only part of the resolution; we are fools if we believe those who have the power, who were elected and took an oath swearing to uphold the Constitution are the very ones who are using that power to uphold Trump and his minions.

    Which America do I live in? My neighborhood is Trumpville; once middle class, now low middle class America and sliding downhill at a faster rate each time Tump Tweets and builds the support of HIS Congress. I don’t like where I am living but can’t afford to move…if I could afford to move, where is there to move to that would provide better conditions and return my “Audacity of Hope” for a safe future?

  13. It’s time to use quotes for the first word of the country’s name. The “United” States is not one country and the country trying to control it is very dangerous, even as it claims to be the country itself.

  14. We are quickly becoming, if we haven’t already become, a caste nation. It was/is driven by a hand full of extremely selfish capitalists who give capitalism a bad name. How it will play out in my children- s and grandchildren’s lifetimes really concerns me. I wish it would be at the ballot box. I pray it is not in the streets. As grandparets I think it is our duty to be willing to risk our all for their futures.

  15. Nancy – I couldn’t find the program you referenced with Frank Luntz. What time is it scheduled and what is it entitled?

  16. My parents were the most staunch of Republicans. They worked for the grand old party and reaped some benefits from their investment. I can’t say for sure but as I recall the culture during those days before a Ministry of Truth was in every living room, pocket and purse, if I had asked them if their party was perfect the answer would have been a puzzled stare followed by “of course not”.

    To me we are, for good or bad, stuck with a two party system. Is either perfect? Of course not. Like corporations they both are stuck with the talent they have. They don’t even strive for perfection it is such an ethereal goal. Like all human institutions they bumble through as best they can.

    One of the effects of the Ministry of Truth using fear and anger to produce and recruit radicalized extremists whose votes can be reliably sold in the oligarchy market is to shout every conceivable and some inconceivable flaws of the opposition as loudly and often as possible. Consider the rants of Rush Limbaugh and the Foxy News Network slathering over the horrors of the Clintons and Obamas.

    So when I hear people advertising Democrats are not perfect, don’t support them, my reaction is that that is really abandon all hope ye who enter here. Give up. We have failed. No hope.

    Yet when I compare the actual Clinton/Obama governance with Bush/Trump I see a universe of real life difference. Night and day.

    So I’m not joining that sad parade of hopelessness because I believe it’s a product not of reality but the extremist factory still blaring in most living rooms, pockets and purses.

    Does the DNC and the rank and file have a great deal of work to do to win the war for America? Absolutely. Is it more likely that the Democrats will restore what Republicans are selling on the oligarchy market?

    Again, absolutely.

  17. Unmentioned in Sheila’s summary of the MIT professor’s book (though I am sure he treated it) is the phrase “wage inequality,” which I incessantly blog about as the number one domestic issue of the day – and has been since Reagan and the demise of the New Deal. With forty years of treading water on median wages we have been and are emptying the middle class into poverty with all of the implications that has for feeding and educating our families etc. The solution? Rid ourselves of bought legislators (irrespective of who is buying them) and put true representatives of the people in their steads with a view toward a much fairer apportioning of the wealth and income of the economy among investors, corporations and the workforce. How? Reread this sentence and act on it.

  18. No, JoAnn. …Ossof is a Republican in disguise. He is against Medicare for All.

    I don’t want to read any BS about letting the perfect work against the good. You either want to save lives or you don’t. Jon Ossof is the problem with today’s Democrats. Democrat in name only. The public/genuine liberals/democrats (and rightfully so) cannot be fooled anymore. The DNC canards and platitudes are no longer working because that’s all it is;rhetoric and, empty at that.

    Brand loyalty at the cost of lives is dangerous. The Democrats have become a cult—much like Republicans. Policy doesn’t matter. What is important is loyalty to brand! Vote Jon Ossof! The Lives of Insurance Executives Matter!!

    Democrats have become good little Germans. Or, one could describe the folks here at this forum as soi disant liberals

  19. We moved to the US in 1960; I was 8.
    We left behind family, friends and, for my parents, painful memories of the Nazi occupation of Denmark and their own roles in sabotaging the invaders.
    I fell out of the middle class when my husband developed ALS and I was unable to match my prior income.
    Now I participate in activism to give my grandchildren a future.

  20. Is there anyone who believes that America will have a President who is not a Republican or Democrat in the next 100 years? I certainly do not and that’s why I believe that the wise choice is either one party or the other, not some mythical third.

    One has to believe that with the power to manipulate the polls that the Republicans demonstrated last year the current administration is their “A” team.

    I can’t find hardly anyone willing to defend any of them anymore. The two sides have gotten down to those who are surprised vs those who aren’t at the level of incompetence.

    Those who are can be usually identified by endless repetition since before the Clinton Presidency of Democrats are the cause of all evil in the world including hangnails.

    It’s certainly easy to understand when one considers their present incompetence that attacking the opposition is the only strategy left. That hasn’t changed in decades so it should surprise no one.

  21. Pete:” Is there anyone who believes that America will have a President who is not a Republican or Democrat in the next 100 years? I certainly do not and that’s why I believe that the wise choice is either one party or the other, not some mythical third.”

    Well,just because YOU don’t believe doesn’t make it so. Sounds like you’ve thrown in the towel and gave up. I know…I know….We must keep voting for Democrats–regardless of their policies- so Pete can feel comfortable.

    The future and past are odd places.

    Hell, WhoDaThunk we would be bed buddies with Germany today one hundred years ago? All things are possible.

    Btw,here’s an excellent article from a genuine journalist; David Sirota.


  22. Trump et al are that hard to defend. The Republican Congress is that hard to defend. The Trump Cabinet is that hard to defend.

    Republicans since 1992 have had one offense. Attack the DNC. Today they are glad that they have had 25 years of experience at that as there is zero good for them to brag about.

    Why that ever worked is well beyond me. Why it still works even more.

    It’s time for Democrats to hold Republicans accountable not to defend Democrats.

  23. What’s so sad about this, besides what is the obvious, is all those folks, like your Dad and mine, who found in World War II came back and collectively worked so hard to create something far better than what they had grown up with as children of the Great Depression. To see how our political parties and those that really pull their strings have squandered what they worked so hard to create is just heart breaking. They have and continue to throw away what was great about this country for short-sighted political gains and outright greed. To think of what Helle Koustrup Berry experienced in her native Denmark and to move here to start again and then see the sham that certain parts of the “American Dream” really are is, quite frankly, embarrassing. To see what the Republican Party has become and what its elected members want to do to the citizens of this country and their future cannot be tolerated and must be fought. Seventy plus years this country fought a virulent form of totalitarianism and defeated it. Now we are faced with a home-grown version of the same and the outcome of the struggle that must come against it must be the same or we are truly lost.

  24. Tom and William: I am one of those who was in WW II and came back and with the help of FDR’s New Deal came up with an almost ideal Norman Rockwell society before Reagan and his greedhogs destroyed it. Symptoms? The median wage level has not changed in forty years while the Dow is through the roof. The problem? Wage inequality. The solution? Throw out those in the Congress and elsewhere who are bribed by the rich and corporate class to maintain the status quo. As I often blog, I was not in the South Pacific to fight for Roosevelt or Truman; I was there to defend democracy against fascism, and today we have a variance of economic fascism from within, hardly an expected result for those of us who were ready to leave everything on the table to save our democratic institutions.

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