"It ain't much, but it is our's" - 1947
"Just go to the ATM" - 2011
The vanishing American Middle Class is one of the wonders of the world, or should be.
Being Middle Class was once a badge of honor. Immigrants who braved coffin ships to scratch out the American Dream, worked, saved, prayed, and most of all learned together and kicked down the walls of economic isolation and poverty. Italians worked along the Chicago River north and south of its flow cutting lumber for this growing City. The Irish largely chased cattle, pigs, and sheep into pens and up onto steep ramps to the killing floors, where Poles, Lithuanians, and Bohemians hammered America's meat to be cut and chopped and processed by more Irishmen and Germans.
The Germans arrived here already Middle Class, as did German Jews, and were skilled craftsmen and professionals - doctors and lawyers. Swedes were skilled wood workers.
African Americans, freedmen, lived among white settlers and immigrants and often were more affluent than newer arrivals all through the Civil War and for a few decades after.
The labor strikes of the late 1880's through WWI brought waves of impoverished black men and women into Chicago, as strikebreakers, forced to compete with white ethnic immigrants. Industry shaped the competition, but learning moved the poor up into the Middle Class.
A man was proud to exchange a blue shirt for a crisp starched white shirt and attachable collar. Paddy learned to do more than dig. Stash learned to do more than hammer a cow, pig. Vitas learned to cut and put pipes together, after he was black-listed by Armour, or Swift, or Cudahy. Vito watched Emerson in the lumber yard and learned how to frame. Washington learned to not cross a picket line with his friends from Georgia and earn the trust of the angry white faces calling him every color-rich sobriquet and animal metaphor imaginable.
They learned to read, write, converse and get along. They learned to save, as well as spend from the Bohemians who not only made their beer, but owned the building in which they lived. They became as respectable and dignified in a few years off of the boat, or the train from Alabama.
By the 1920's, America was rolling toward the Middle Class. A Depression nearly choked it but the lessons learned from the previous century had taken root - learn a trade, develop a skill, make yourself useful, take care of others.
Parallel to the striving wave of impoverished Americans were American born, educated, radicalized by the Hegelian university professors who dominated academia, and contemptuous of 'lesser beings.' They became the Progressives. They viewed the Middle Class with scorn and contemptuously abandoned the bourgeoisie for Artist Colonies, or subjected Italian kids to Aristophanes.
They saw the Republican and Democratic political machines who were boosting the Masses toward the Middle Class, as a threat to true Self-Fulfillment, which could only be realized through their human laboratories.
Babbitry was and remains Middle Class hypocrisy - owning a modest home, making a modest income and the value attendant upon such aspirations were subject of laughter and derision. The Great Classless Society was to be fought for with patience and cunning.
WWII accelerated the American Middle Class and the lessons learned from the 19th Century and WWI made America the Moral and Economic Power of the Free Word pitted against the great Classless Societies formed by Stalin and Chairman Mao.
War did not erode the American Middle Class. Values taken for granted at best, or dismissed as stupid infected the American soul.
Labor made a pact with the Devil, when it admitted the Progressive ideologies through the back-door. The Reuthers and John L. Lewis were replaced by a Sweeney and a Stern. Big Labor was no long the trades or the industrial unions, Big Labor was public sector labor - SEIU.
By playing ball with Progressives, Labor and the American Middle Class drugged itself.
Here we are today -
The number of middle-income neighborhoods in the United States has dwindled significantly over the past 40 years, as the rich-poor divide deepens across the country, a study released Wednesday showed.
In 2007, nearly a third of American families -- 31 percent -- lived in either an affluent neighborhood or a mainly low-income one, up from just 15 percent in 1970, according to the study conducted by Stanford University, and released in partnership with the Russell Sage Foundation and Brown University.
Meanwhile, 44 percent of American families lived in middle-class neighborhoods in 2007, down from 65 percent in 1970.
"Mixed income neighborhoods have grown rarer, while affluent and poor neighborhoods have grown much more common," the study said.
For the study, researchers used data from 117 metropolitan areas, each with more than 500,000 residents. In 2007, those areas were home to 197 million people -- or two-thirds of the US population.
The values of faith, hard work, achievement, and charity, have been replaced by a universal ethic of entitlement. Go to the ATM for more money. We are OK with abortion. Too many of us believe that sexual inclination is a Civil Right. The more the Middle Class agrees with Progressives the quicker it will vanish into the Classless Society dreamed of by John Dewey, Roger Baldwin, WEB Dubois, and George Soros.