The media is rife with stories about "the disappearing middle class" and the "exponential rise in income of the elite." As a card carrying member of the middle class, I can tell you that it does indeed feel as if the rich are only getting richer while the poor get poorer. Bottom line? I believe we are well on our way to a two layered economic strata in this society - the rich, and varying levels of poor. Unfortunately, I know exactly where I'm going to end up in this scenario, and it's not in a Penthouse on Park Avenue. My father in law came of age during the Great Depression, an event that cemented his inherent mistrust of government and financial institutions. As a young man, he lost his life savings in a bank failure, and he never again trusted banks with much of his hard earned cash. He was a Republican and an arch conservative, and when I first started listening to his tirades on various subjects back in the early 1970's, I thought he was a little crazy.
But although I've never far veered from my own southern Democratic roots, I must admit that the past 35 years have seen several of his prophesies come true. "The media is going to take over public opinion," he would often say. Now this was back in the day when all the news available came out of four TV stations and the daily newspaper. There was no Fox news network, no CNN ticker running constantly, no Nancy Grace, or Rush Limbaugh, constantly badgering us with news and expose, yammering in our ears 24/7 about what we ought to believe. With this constant barrage of biased information and opinion, where do we find honest and upright information on which to form our own views? While we may think we're thinking independently, how much have our minds been affected subliminally by the information we're fed by these powerful media formats?
Just as often as my father in law ranted about undue media influence on public opinion, he pontificated about the globalization of commerce. "If people in this country keep buying products made in China, one of these days the Communists will own us!" Well, perhaps the Communists don't own us, but China nearly does. Back in 1973 when my father in law stubbornly refused to buy clothes or appliances made in foreign countries, I would never have believed that the US would be in China's debt to the tune over a trillion dollars. And as we continue to outsource much of our labor and technology to China and other nations while failing to promote new business ventures and technologies here in the States, we continue to let huge chunks of our economy further out of our control.
Part of the problem is, in fact, the bottom line. Unless something is directly measurable in the profit column, it's value is discounted. Corporations have little regard for the loyalty of their workers, instead seeking ways to make more money without considering the consequences to their personnel or the larger effects on society as whole.
Bottom line? My father in law was a lot smarter than I gave him credit for. I almost wish he were still around to ask what might happen next.
Then again, I probably wouldn't want to know the answer.