Saturday, October 18, 2008

The economically distressed

This week's edition of Bill Moyers Journal has an intriguing discussion with Michael Zweig, Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Study of Working Class Life at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, regarding the downturn in the economy and those "economically distressed" who will be most affected. Economically distressed is a euphemism for the working poor, a term that I, and Moyers, are more used to using.

I greatly suggest that you take the time to watch this segment of Moyers Journal. In it, he talks about the vacuum in the political sphere, in the lack of organization to meet the needs of this group of citizens. As Obama turns to the middle class, Greens should be organizing here... and that means in the neighborhoods, the barrios, wherever people are "playing by the rules and still getting screwed" to paraphrase Bill Clinton, a man who did a bit of screwing himself.

If not Greens, then who?


Anonymous said...

I suspect that the reason Obama is using the term "middle class" is that it is inclusive. I would expect that 80-90% of Americans (from the working poor to the professional and business classes) would identify themselves as "middle class." I also suspect that many of those whom you or I would label "working poor" would be offended by the epithet. The challenge then is to forward economic policies that benefit those of lower income while not appearing to do so explicitly, perhaps by appealing to universality.

Wes said...

I agree on the idea that no one wants to be labeled as "poor". I have been pushing for a sound Green Party economic policy statement, but that seems not to be in the cards this time.

Alex Walker said...

In recent decades of Republican "Conservative" and "New Democrat" rule, the term "Middle Class" has become meaningless. Oftentimes, "Middle Class" is nothing more than a code word for "White" since the powers-that-be have convinced many people that ALL poor people are dark-skinned and ALL Blacks and Latinos are poor (and who wants to be one of those "losers?")

Barack Obama has gone out of his way to say "Middle Class" to underscore the fact that he's not running to be president of "Those People." Times are changing but the change in political discourse will come slowly.

I agree this is one of many openings for Greens, but it needs to be handled very, very carefully. Thus, for example, my personal opinion is that Rosa Clemente was a poor choice for Cynthia McKinney's running mate. What was she thinking of? Somebody like Jesse Johnson or Kent Mesplay would have been much better. We need Green leaders who can talk to "the economically distressed" without reinforcing their prejudices.

Tough job. Particularly since it looks like things will get much worse in this country. My fear is that if Obama wins and people are disappointed, there may be yet another swing to the Hard Right.