We’re not asking for much: a Social Security check that won’t bounce, schools for our kids that won’t make them dumber, a fighting chance for a job that will let us take the tykes to Disney World, health insurance, and, when the waters rise, a government that will have some kind of plan to pluck us from the flood.
Thom Hartmann’s written a killer new book, “Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class — And What We Can Do About It (BK Currents)” Here’s the Afterword I wrote for it. Read this, listen to Thom and I today on your local Progressive Talk/Air America station. Then get the book, get the point, get active.
Since Thom first wrote this alarm-ringing book, the war has turned severely, senselessly brutal. I’m talking about the Class War — and if you’re in the middle zone, No Man’s Land, well, Good luck, Jack!
Since Thom’s book hit the street, 38,000 workers at Ford Motor lost their jobs. Add that to the Delco Auto Parts bankruptcy and all of Michigan is busted. In the Bush years, the average annual income in that state declined by $9,000 per family.
You didn’t have to move to Michigan to get it in the neck. Average income in the U.S has fallen $2,000 per household since the last days of Bill Clinton.
Hartmann once told me that Thomas Jefferson said his greatest accomplishment was the founding of the University of Virginia — establishing the right of Mr. and Ms. Average Income to a decent, free education. “Universal education.” That’s what made this nation King of the Planet — a conquest of ideas, ideals and inventions that no imperial army could have accomplished.
Jefferson thought free universal education so important he had his university presidency, not the U.S. presidency, carved on his tombstone.
But I think that behind Jefferson’s seemingly over-the-top enthusiasm for educating the country was an unstated fear that, unless Americans stayed continually informed, knowledgeable and alert, we’d end up a nation of knuckleheads and pea-brains ruled by dangerous, pompous pinheads who would take away our rights on the way to taking our wealth.
Jefferson was right: education’s the key. I had feared that the 2004 presidential election, recording a Republican plurality, was an intelligence test that America flunked. But, by the end of 2006, the Great American Middle rose up in revolt and voted the scoundrels out.
Generally, we’ve done OK. FDR expanded our Bill of Rights with the Four Freedoms, including a New Deal guaranteeing our economic security. They don’t dare take that away — in the open. I know our nation has sometimes fallen into the Bushes, but we always seem to get back up on our hind legs and follow our populist scent back to the True Path.
Of course, the story’s not over. Whichever party is in the majority in Congress, it remains a millionaire’s club where Average Americans, plucked of their vote, are soon carved into chewable pieces for the corporate carnivores.
Like I say, we aren’t asking for much: Hartmann’s prescriptions to cure America can be summarized on a photo of Laura Bush’s fake smile. That’s the point. Ultimately, it’s not up to the new congressional Democratic majority to save the Great American Middle — it’s up to us, to hold them to their promises.
I want you to photocopy Thom’s conclusion, The Road to Victory, and check off each task as you complete it, from joining a union to calling into a radio talk show.
Then, years from now, when your kids ask you, “What did you do in the Class War, daddy?” you can point to the list and say, “My share.”
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans – Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone WILD. For more info, or to hear Brad Friedman, Ed Asner and other troublemakers read from Armed Madhouse, go to www.GregPalast.com
Read excerpts from “Screwed” here.
Buy it from Amazon Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class — And What We Can Do About It (BK Currents)” here.
Listen to Palast on Thom Hartmann’s Air America Show on his podcast.