Working Poor Unready to Revolt by Joel S. Hirschhorn

by Joel S. Hirschhorn
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
August 06, 2008

Once upon a time when governments no longer served most of their citizens it was the most economically disadvantaged that could be counted on to rebel against tyranny and injustice.  Times have changed, for the worse, despite the spread of democracy.

Here we are with a two-party plutocracy that preferentially serves corporate and wealthy interests and lets the middle class suffer and sink.  Plausibly, the middle class is unready to revolt because it still maintains a relatively good standard of living despite rising economic insecurity.  But what about the lowest 40 percent of Americans that are the working poor?

A recent survey of this group by the Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University conducted this past June looked at the beliefs of adults ages 18 to 64 working 30 or more hours a week, not self-employed and who earned no more than $27,000 in 2007.  The results show a fascinating dichotomy.  Though there is widespread pain and discontent there is also a stubborn faith in the American dream despite little help from government.

Ninety percent of this group sees the current economy negatively, either not so good or poor, with 52 percent feeling financially insecure and 50 percent feeling less secure than a few years ago.  The fractions saying they have difficulty affording basic things are severe, including: 88 percent that cannot save money for college or other education for their children, 82 percent paying for gasoline or other transportation costs, 81 percent saving money for retirement, 65 percent paying for health care and health insurance, 65 percent handling child care, close to 60 percent paying credit card bills, monthly utility bills and rent or mortgage costs, and 47 percent buying food.  Three quarters say it has gotten harder to find good jobs and nearly that fraction for finding affordable health care, and 68 percent finding decent, affordable housing.

In the past year this group has had to take many actions to make ends meet, including 70 percent that cut electricity use and home heating; 62 percent that took an extra job or worked extra hours, 51 percent that postponed medical or dental care and 50 percent that took money out of savings or retirement funds.

All this sounds pretty bleak.  But are these people mad and pessimistic?  Not exactly.

An amazing 69 percent are hopeful about their personal financial situation, 59 percent believe they are more likely over the next few years to move up in terms of their social class, 59 percent believe that their children will have a standard of living much or somewhat better than theirs, and 56 percent think they will achieve the American dream in their lifetime.

Do these lower economic class, hardest hit Americans that account for 25 percent of the adult population believe that government helps them?  No.  Only 22 percent believe that government programs are making things better for them.  But apparently they have bought hook, line and sinker into Barack Obama’s change rhetoric, with a 2 to 1 margin favoring him over John McCain.  And when it comes to beliefs about which candidate will do better for them the margins favoring Obama go up to 3 or more to 1 for improving their own financial situation, the national economy and the national health care system.  Similarly, Obama is seen as much more concerned with their needs and better represent their values.  All very good news for Obama, except that only 70 are registered to vote and about a third saw no difference in whether Obama or McCain was in office.

Faith in Obama, however, pales in comparison to the other source of comfort for dealing with hard economic times.  A striking 78 percent find religion or faith in God helps them get through tough economic times.

The unmistakable conclusion from all these data is that no rebellion against the power elites running the two-party plutocracy seems likely.  If the bottom 40 percent of Americans in terms of income still believe in the American dream and change-spouting politicians like Obama, it is hard to believe that the more affluent middle 40 percent of the population are ready to support more radical change through political rebellion.

Interesting how gasoline prices are dropping as we approach the Republican and Democratic conventions and Election Day.  Apparently, America’s ruling class knows what it is doing.  It can keep channeling more and more of the nation’s wealth to the rich, Upper Class producing more economic inequality without fearing the kind of political revolution that Thomas Jefferson thought the nation needs periodically.  Consider this: In the three decades after World War II household inflation-adjusted income of the bottom 90 percent increased 83 percent compared to 20 percent increase for the top 10 percent.  In contrast, in the past three decades, the bottom 90 percent saw only a 10 percent increase while the top 10 percent received an increase of 232 percent!  The two-party stranglehold on our political system has produced rising economic inequality.

Forget all that nonsense about the proletariat.  Most Americans use their faith in God or religion or conventional politicians to cope, even in some of the most insecure economic times in American history.  They remain overly confident in voting as the path to change.  The ruling class has successfully used propaganda to dumb down and manipulate most of the public because delusion has become the opiate of the masses.

In God and Barack Obama We Trust could be placed on all our currency if the views of millions of Americans are taken seriously.  Don’t you feel better?

Joel S. Hirschhorn can be reached through


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7 thoughts on “Working Poor Unready to Revolt by Joel S. Hirschhorn

  1. Pingback: The Fire This Time? By David Michael Green « Dandelion Salad

  2. Hi Ozzie, thank you so much for taking the time to write this very well stated commentary. It really should be a post all on its own. Let me know if it’s OK to post it. Do you have it published elsewhere, such as a personal blog or website? This needs to be screamed loudly to all who still have ears to hear.

  3. You;re enslaved all right mate – only most of your compatriots don’t realise it! Well, the other 95% of the world’s population DOES realise it, so here’s what WE think:

    What passes for political “debate” in your blighted Empire consists of stupefying, hypocritical and shameless charades, which lead us to tag your entire country as brainless and clueless.

    Honestly, we just stand back in awe of the seemingly unending nature of the stupidity and avidity, death and destruction, hypocrisy and falsity that emanates from your Imperial rulers, your unprecedented armed forces and public debt, your military-industrial-government complex and your appalling apology for a media.

    Most of us can’t even understand WHY all of you have to constantly compete about who is the most “patriotic” and and who loves their country the most, and who has been in the armed forces and perhaps killed Iraqi and Afghani babies – and for what? For oil? To allow the continuation of profligacy and environmental destruction? To allow planes to use oil to constantly criss-cross your country on journeys to nowhere, to more new exurbs that look exactly like the last ones?

    Do you understand that to most of the rest of the world, especially to us Australians (who you profess to “love”, without knowing or understanding anything about us, or realising that we HATE what your rulers have been doing and we tossed out our government for collaborating with them) – excessive flag-waving “patriotism” is ABHORRENT, a suspect and dangerous emotion?

    And our countries survive just fine without this sort of flag-waving nonsense, except for a bit of fun at sporting events! Yes, tiny New Zealand is doing beautifully without that particularly ludicrous form of “patriotism”, so are the Nordic countries, Switzerland, Canada and of course Australia – ALL WAY AHEAD of the so-called “Land of the Free” in quality of life in EVERY worldwide survey

    Ally that “patriotism” with US “exceptionalism” and the ludicrous idea that so-called “Christians” could persistently ask for a particular piece of land to be “blessed” without giving a STUFF about the rest of the world – and you have such abhorrent situations as the idea that your so-revered armed forces have the right to kill any number of innocent Iraqi or Afghani or Pakistani people they wish, including their beautiful, precious, beloved little children (“thou shalt not kill”? “suffer the little children”? ) in order to follow some twisted idea that this will somehow “defend” the lives of US-citizens?

    What drives the beyond-breathtaking ignorance even about your OWN COUNTRY displayed by people interviewed on the street by your Jay Leno – are they putting tranquillisers in your water supply or spraying your skies with it? Why are these people giggling so inanely? Why are they so robotic and fat and stupid? Why are they so inarticulate they can hardly put 2 words together?But all over the world, we understand what your “government” and its big-Pharma mates and military masters of war are no doubt busy doing, polluting and drugging your country and your people ALL the time. (Which is probaly nothing compared to what they are doing in less visible places – what goes on in Guam, Cuba, Diego Garcia, the MArshall Islands, on secret navy ships and hidden overseas bases, etc etc?)

    As for the current “financial crisis” – words fail to express the pathetic enormity of the hypocrisy being displayed by a regime that supposedly believes in the “free market”, engaging in the biggest nationalisation of private businesses of all time, and the transformation to a Socialist economy which is far “worse” than Communism – because at least under Communism , people are guaranteed healthcare!

    Even worse, is that your populace is so somnolent that they believe every bit of Kafkaesque doublespeak they are fed by the Republican morons and puppetmasters, no matter how ludicrous the twists and turns – and don’t even question how a country can pull itself up by its own bootstraps without falling over, where is all the money going to come from, why should taxpayers fund private enterprises in a “free market economy”, and why should taxpayers take on all the bad debts ever created while allowing companies to keep the profits – and make yet MORE bad debts ad infinitum for taxpayer subsidy, with no penalty?

    How can your people not even THINK about the fact that your country was RENOWNED for having the most ENORMOUS GOVERNMENT DEBT and CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT in history, at least a DECADE ago – and has been growing that debt every year – where do they think the money is going to come from, for more and more of these bailouts?

    It’s all BORROWED from the Japanese, the Arabs and the Chinese, and they don’t even THINK about the fact that THEY will be paying the interest while the wealthy will be creaming off all the profits?

    In ANY other country of the world, a situation like you have in your country would create a REVOLUTION – we Australians would NEVER stand for such a situation, we’ve tossed out our governements for much less than that – but then we’re not in some sort of drugged stupor, are we?

    Honestly, we don’t care what happens any more – clearly your country is increasingly divided into 2 warring camps (easy to see why you had a Civil War, mates), because of your pathetically rigid 2-party political system which makes it virtually impossible for any commonsense independent political representation to occur – especially of Greens, who now have a MAJOR political voice in most sane civilised countries.

    Clearly there is a good chance your voters are so moronic they’ll vote for Stupid and Stupider, who will try to continue using even more taxpayers’ money to prop up yet more private enterprises, give people money to then spend (lining yet more rich peoples’ pockets) eating junkfood, filling their houses (made of matchsticks and cardboard) with plastic crap – and then distract from the fact that the whole country is in hock to China, Japan and Dubai, by no doubt creating more ltitle war campaigns all over the place.

    No, we don’t care any more, because they’ve voted for the current regime twice against all sanity, and if they vote for an even worse replacement, then they deserve all they get – and those who don’t vote deserve it too, because they cant even get off their backsides and drag themselves away from their TV for 5 minutes.

    So, unfortunately a 3rd vote for morons will confirm that the die has been cast irrevocably in favour of stupidity and failure – and whatever pain the US inflicts on the rest of the world and on our environment, we know your Empire is heading towards its end, we know your economy will collapse under its own weight, and it’s just a matter of time.

  4. Hi Eileen, Joel is one of my favorite writers and it’s an honor having him as a featured writer on DS. I’ve been a fan of his work for a few years now.

    Didn’t know that about DKos, but I never go to the site with the exception of someone else citing a story/blog post there. It seems like a somewhat more mainstream site, but I could be mistaken. The fact that they don’t want any talk about 9/11 is interesting. I have heard of others being banned there. That’s unfortunate, imo. Good for you in pointing that out there.

  5. Hirschorn is an excellent writer. I first became aware of him when he wrote a 9/11 truth diary on DailyKos that saw him banned from the site within the hour. People jumped into his diary calling him anti-semitic and I when asked him why this was happening, he responded that he had no idea, and that himself is Jewish!!! I am grateful to him for informing me about

    I don’t write about 9/11 truth myself on DKos because I find the site to be a good resource that I am unwilling to give up, but I find that this particular policy to ban 9/11 discussion is prejudicial and unfortunate, and I tend to address that within the site rules when I can.

    I found the way he was treated on DailyKos to be shameful. Glad to see him here.

  6. Wow.
    This is so completely overwelmingly depressing.
    American is dead.
    Democracy is dead.
    And the typical Ameican is a brainwashed selfdefeating fool, doing nothing while he/she is robbed, excluded, lied to, taken advantage of.
    I have friends who tell me that somewhere there is a line in the sand, and eventually government will step over that line. I do not have faith in this at all.
    We are ignorant fools, and this country has become nothing more than an ignorant bully in world affairs, while allowing injustice and disparity and inequity to become the standard domestically.

  7. Pingback: This is Horseshit by Cindy Sheehan « Dandelion Salad

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