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The Betrayal of the American Dream -- A Once Vibrant Middle Class Is Now on the Brink

Donald Barlett and James Steele explain in their new book how American middle class has been impoverished and its prospects thwarted in favor of a new ruling elite.

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Back then, there were still defined benefit pensions, and people still had a hope of getting them. They’re gone. There was one wage structure. Now there are two-tiered wage systems all over the country. The one wage is gone. Income has been flat, for the most part, since then. You go down the list, and everything has gotten incredibly worse than it was then.

And one of the arguments that was raised by critics back then was because this—that series ran right at the tail end of one of the recessions, and people said, "Well, what’s happening now is really related to the recession, and once we’re out of the recession, everything will be fine." And we made the point this was not true, that what was happening was totally unrelated to the recession. It was the result of structural defects in the American economy, and it was going to continue unless they were dealt with. Well, they weren’t dealt with, and now everything is—you couldn’t even go back now to the 2000 level and give people what they had then. It would be impossible, given the attitudes in Congress, the hardening lines in Washington.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to talk about specifics and also go general. Jim Steele, the story of corporations tell a very major story about the United States, corporations like Apple and Boeing. Apple doesn’t manufacture one product in the United States?

JAMES STEELE: That’s correct. That’s correct. I think some of the parts—some of the parts are made here, but basically the essential products aren’t. And we made the point in the book—we actually wrote about this before a lot of the news surfaced this year—that what was significant about what Apple has done is not just their working conditions in China, which were horrendous by the subcontractors over there, but what they did, they completely closed down manufacturing in this country after really less than a generation. The historic pattern in this country was a product would be invented here, a company would go into business, they would start making it. Up and down the line, you had a broad-based workforce for that product, from folks on the factory floor to the designers, to the salesmen, so on, to the stockholders who might be part of that company. But ultimately, you had this broad-based situation. Apple originally had some manufacturing in this country but very quickly, in less than a generation, just closed that down and shipped most things to China and other countries. And it’s just part of that pattern where jobs that once middle-class people had in this country are now gone.

You see a similar kind of thing now going on with Boeing. Boeing has outsourced all kinds of parts of the new Dreamliner, its great new aircraft, which of course has recently run into some problems with parts of their engines falling off, apparently. But Boeing, as part of getting into the Chinese market, which everybody agrees will be a huge market, has manufactured all sorts of things over there. Basically, what Boeing is doing, which a lot of companies are doing, they are basically showing the Chinese how to make airplanes. And what have the Chinese done? They’re creating their own civilian aircraft industry, where we were told, I think, in this country the idea was have some presence there so we can sell them airplanes. But where is that going to lead down the line if we are turning over to them some of the technology that will let them build airplanes that are our principal export in this country?

 
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