What Right-Wing Media Doesn’t Understand About Rage and the White Working Class

Especially clueless National Review story gets origins of working-class anger wrong, and misunderstands Trumpism.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Paul Campos/Salon

Emphasis Mine

The following first appeared on Salon

A few days ago, the National Review’s Kevin Williamson caused something of a storm when he published an article entitled “Chaos in the Family, Chaos in the State: The White Working Class’s Dysfunction.” The article might as well have been called “Establishment Conservatives Really Aren’t Racists: We Hate Lots of White People, Too.”

Williamson’s thesis is that the white working class is largely responsible for its own degraded condition, apparently because way too many of the roughly 100 million white American adults without college degrees are shiftless drug addicts, who “whelp” babies they can’t take care of, while suckling on the teat of our overly-generous welfare state, instead of moving from their dysfunctional Rust Belt ghettos to places where good-paying jobs are going unfilled. (In a remarkable oversight, Williamson fails to say where those places might be).

Williamson’s thesis is not exactly novel. Indeed, it’s part of a series of conservative screeds that could be called “Working-Class White is the New Black.” The problem with “those people,” you see, isn’t that their jobs, their communities, and their whole way of life have been destroyed by global capitalism. It isn’t that being thrust to the margins or the heart of poverty tends to create stresses that break apart families. It isn’t that economic calamity leads to substance abuse as an eminently predictable form of self-medication.

After all, these sorts of structural explanations for social breakdown are only supported by social science, which, like reality itself, is known to have a strong left-wing bias. Williamson and company’s right-wing critique, by contrast, is supported by the very interesting theory that roughly two-thirds of America’s white population suddenly developed poor moral characters, around the time that “The Brady Bunch” went into syndication.

Ah yes, “The Brady Bunch.” Behold conservative cultural studies, as brought to you by the National Review:

The manufacturing numbers — and the entire gloriously complex tale of globalization — go in fits and starts: a little improvement here, a little improvement there, and a radically better world in raw material terms (and let’s not sniff at those) every couple of decades. Go back and read the novels of the 1980s or watch “The Brady Bunch” and ask yourself why well-to-do suburban families living in large, comfortable homes and holding down prestigious jobs were worried about the price of butter and meat, and then ask yourself when was the last time you heard someone complain that he couldn’t afford a stick of butter.

OK I asked myself, and the answer is: last week. Does Williamson actually know any middle-class — let alone working-class or poor — Americans? The average income of the other half, the bottom 50% of American households (that’s 160 million people) is$26,520 per year. That’s barely more than $2,000 per month, before subtracting payroll and state taxes. If your entire household is living on $2,000 per month, you can bet you’re worried about the price of butter and meat.

But let’s get back to “The Brady Bunch.” Leave aside the absurdity of citing TV mogul Sherwood Schwartz’s fantasy creations as evidence for the actual economic circumstances of middle class professionals in the early 1970s (For example, the Bradys had a live-in housekeeper, because lots of people in Schwartz’s social circle had one). Consider what sorts of costs the real-life parallels to the fictional Bradys were dealing with.

It’s true that butter and meat cost about 20% less in real dollars than they did 40 years ago. On the other hand: the real-life North Hollywood house which Schwartz used for the exterior shots of the Brady home sold in 1973 for $61,000 ($325,761 in 2016 dollars). According to the popular real estate website Zillow, buying this house today would cost $1,791,835. Now real estate values in Los Angeles have skyrocketed, but in the nation as a whole, the inflation-adjusted cost of a new home has almost doubled since the early 1970s, while median household income has barely budged.

If the Brady children had gone off to college, they would have paid, in 1975an average of $541 per year to attend a four-year public university, and $2,290 to go to a private school (the 2015 dollar equivalents are $2,387 and $10,088). Today, average tuition is, in real dollars, three times higher at private schools and four times higher at public institutions.

When “The Brady Bunch” came on the air, Americans were paying $2,171 per year, in 2016 dollars, for health care. Today that figure is four and half times higher.

In sum, while over the past four decades real median household incomes have stagnated (and those of working class households have declined), housing prices have doubled, higher education costs have tripled and quadrupled, and medical costs have risen even more. That establishment Republicans such as Williamson are deluded enough to believe that the last 40 years haven’t been an economic disaster for working class Americans, and that therefore their personal struggles provide an appropriate occasion for sanctimonious moralizing, helps explain why Donald Trump is winning the battle for the Republican nomination.


The Right’s New Tactic to Pit the Middle Class Against Itself

A new kind of class warfare is emerging in the Heartland.

From:  AlterNet

(N.B.: the author uses the term ‘midwest’.  I don’t like the use of this word for many reasons, among them  because it attempts to join together a large, diverse area under one label.)

N.B.: also exit polls demonstrated that the majority of those who voted against recall did so because they opposed recall itself.)

By: Dean Bakopolous

“The failed recall attempt of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker comes as no surprise to most of us liberals in the Midwest, though it still stings. It hurts not only because we failed to boot a corrupt and ruthless governor from the state capitol, but also because it underscores a more troubling phenomenon: A new kind of class warfare is emerging in the Heartland, and it is one the Republicans have been so good at orchestrating in order to win elections.

In the Bible Belt, Republicans have long been able to divide working people (by that I mean anyone who depends on an earned paycheck to stay afloat) on social issues — gay rights and abortion. In the Rust Belt and Grain Belt, that’s been a bit harder, as there is a strong “live and let live” ethic in the Midwest. We like our neighbors and tend to accept, if not value, our differences. We also like our pulpits free of politics; we prefer preachers to be soft-spoken and potlucks are often more important than politics. The overwhelming support for President Obama in Wisconsin in 2008 (he won some very conservative rural counties) proved all that.

What the deep pockets and political might of Scott Walker — and other Midwestern Republican governors — signal is a troubling new trend: There is now a new way for the rich, ruling class to use fear and envy to divide the American middle class, a strategy that doesn’t even need to use the traditional wedge issue of religion.

As Wisconsin’s new political landscape so clearly indicates, conservatives have now managed to vilify plain old working people as elitist fat cats. Librarians, teachers, public employees, and union laborers: Basically, people who earn health insurance and decent wages have suddenly become the things that stagnate an economy and raise taxes, when in truth they, and those wages they enjoy, have been the lifeblood of a struggling post-industrial economy.

But by declaring war on teachers, union laborers, and public sector employees, the well-heeled spinners behind the rise of Scott Walker have managed to make struggling Americans vote against their own best interests out of a sense of fear and envy. Struggling workers — and most comfortable middle-class workers — often to need an identifiable villain, someone who is holding them back from success, in order to vote Republican. If Republicans can present themselves as an enemy of that villain, they win. That’s what happened happened last night in Wisconsin.

America is a great nation, but also a jealous one. In an economic era of struggle, ease is resented. Those struggling to save for retirement and health insurance, those struggling to keep up with property taxes and utility bills, are easily going to be led to a passionate resentment of those who have such things “easy,” as Walker and his spin doctors have been claiming. It’s a lie that these middle class workers have it easy, and it’s a lie that they are the reason behind stagnant wages and dwindling job prospects in Wisconsin. Ironically, it’s the end of a union workforce and the collapse of public oversight of corporate interests that is most to blame for the woes of the working class.

If Barack Obama plans to win in November, he needs to unite two factions of the Rust Belt population: The middle-class of public workers and union members and teachers, and the other middle-class, which ranges from self-made entrepreneurs to struggling service industry workers. How does he do it? With an honest message that points to the real villain: An increasingly greedy corporate culture that stops at nothing in its quest to consolidate power and wealth.

There is, in fact, a 99 percent in this country. But right now, a big chunk of it votes in the interest of the 1 percent. Now is not the time for the corporate-friendly moderate Democrat along the lines of Bill Clinton, one who backpedals on health care and fair wages. Now is the time for a leader who speaks compassionately about the struggles of American families, and speaks honestly about the reasons behind them.

The president seems to have come out of the gate with this message; here’s hoping he’ll take it to the finish line, no matter how the political winds blow. It’s the only path to victory in an increasingly divided and scared nation.

The former director of the Wisconsin Humanities Council, Dean Bakopoulos is the author of “My American Unhappiness” — a political tragi-comedy set in Wisconsin — coming in paperback next month. He now teaches at Grinnell College in Iowa.

Emphasis Mine.

See: http://www.alternet.org/story/155806/the_right%27s_new_tactic_to_pit_the_middle_class_against_itself?page=entire

Change in Great Lakes Region elected Republicans – less conservative!

The ACU, a conservative organization – is giving lower (less conservative) ratings to elected officials from the Great Lakes region.  

Muriel Kane, Rawstory: ” The American Conservative Union recently released its Congressional ratings for 2008 — and the figures suggest the possibility of a significant division between hardcore conservatives in the Republican Party and those who might be more open to voting with the Democrats, particularly on economic issues…In New York, for example, a number of Republican members of Congress appear to have grown more moderate — either that or the ACU’s standards have become more extreme. For example, Rep. Peter King came in at only 50% in 2008, down from 68% the previous year and a lifetime record of 75%. Rep. John McHugh was at 40%, compared with a lifetime figure of 72%.
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan are other states where a number of Republican members of Congress drew ACU scores between the 40’s and the 70’s. These figures are in many cases 10, 15, or even 30 points lower than their lifetime ACU records. 

Most of these Republicans remain clearly conservative according to their own standards — but the ACU figures suggest … a different path from Limbaugh conservatism. ” 

see: http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Conservative_rankings_suggest_Rust_Belt_GOP_0329.html