"Income disparities are wider than at any time since the Wall Street crash of 1929, and almost 50 per cent of financial wealth in the US is now in the hands of 1 per cent of the population."The American middle classes are really suffering the impact of 30 years of neoliberalism, and the effects of the financial crash, which began with the sub-prime mortgage scandal. Its important to make a distinction because 'middle class' means something different in the USA and the UK. In the UK, the middle classes are well-off professionals such as doctors and lawyers, whereas in the USA the term 'middle class' includes working families that would be described as 'working class' in the UK. Middle class Americans are crucial to the USA because they are at the heart of America.
Because the USA has always had privatised healthcare and higher education and a weak welfare system, the American middle classes have always lead a potentially precarious existence. If you get ill, you get large health bills, if you can't work because of your illness you can lose your job and your house. In a short space of time you could go from a fairly comfortable lifestyle to being out on the street. In the past the US economy has been strong enough to ensure that this didn't happen to most Americans. That is no longer the case. Millions of Americans are now finding themselves in a situation where they are living hand to mouth, knowing that if they lose their job they will lose everything they had. They are living in fear of joining the millions of families who have already suffered this fate.
We are the 99% is a website which documents the fears and suffering of middle class Americans. Many of these people are hanging on just one paycheck away from disaster and shouldering thousands of dollars of debt.
|This photo is typical of the plight of people on We are the 99%|
"That is what the Tea Party is all about. Millions of Americans are angry, bewildered and frustrated at the recent crash and the fact they aren't getting richer anymore. But there is a huge problem here - they are directing their anger against the wrong enemy. The people who caused the crash - the financial capitalists and corporations of Wall Street aren't being blamed. Instead, the anger is being directed at the government."Unlike the Tea Party, the occupywallst movement is really about social justice. It is a recognition that the growing inequality has to be reversed, and that the neoliberalist policies pursued by successive governments have failed the American people. As yet the movement appears to be leaderless and doesn't have a coherent programme and specific demands for change. But it is growing and spreading to other cities in the USA. It is beginning to cause concern to politicians like Obama, who have begun to take notice.
What should the demands of the occupywallst movement be? Well, it's not for me to say, but if you read about the problems of the 99% the solutions are fairly obvious. What Americans need is freedom from fear through access to jobs and public provision - in health, education and social security. These are things that we have in the UK, but we are in the process of losing, due to the Coalitions government's austerity programme, if we don't fight for them. Like us, Americans need a Green New Deal to provide jobs and tackle climate change, they need a properly funded system of public healthcare and higher education. What they need is social security as a right, not welfare as a handout.
One of the greatest of Americans tried to ensure that Americans had all these things but was unable to complete his project before he died. His name was Franklin D. Roosevelt and he enshrined the freedom from fear in his economic second Bill of Rights. His bill of rights is what the American middle classes need. The occupywallst movement don't need to invent a programme because they already have a ready made one, now they have re-discover it and fight for it.