Green Room

The Context Of Middle-Class Frustration

posted at 4:31 pm on January 21, 2010 by

Last night, President Obama gave ABC’s George Stephanopolous his first interview since the Massachusetts special election. Admitting that people were “frustrated” with the results of his administration’s first year, Obama continued:

So the reason I say that we are not surprised by what happened in Massachusetts is because I’m frustrated, too.

I’m frustrated by the fact that over the last decade, we have not seen the kind of progress for middle class families that are needed. That’s what I promised to deliver in the campaign.

It’s not something that I believe we can get done in a year. But it is something that I think we are starting to make progress on.

The part of that statement I’ve highlighted should bring a groan from everyone who’s tired of Obama endlessly blaming his failures on his predecessor. Later in the interview, the President spoke of the “broader context” in which he plans to “move the middle class forward.” I don’t think he sees the context broadly enough. The middle class can trace its frustration much further back than the election of George Bush, or Bill Clinton before him.

The middle class is the great enemy of collectivist politics, under any of its names: progressivism, communism, fascism, or “liberalism.” As far back as Karl Marx, the apostles of collectivism have understood that they must subjugate the middle class before they can claim total victory.

The upper class isn’t a big problem – they don’t have the votes to block a collectivist agenda in a democracy, and they generally find ways to maintain, or increase, their power and wealth under a total State. The power of the State can be extremely valuable to them, for manipulating markets and thwarting upstart competitors. Many of them are willing to trade a little wealth for power, or find moral nourishment in supporting a collective agenda.

The members of the lower class are generally seen as the clients of a collectivist movement, the recipients of the social benefits it promises. Their desperation and anger become fuel for the movement, providing both righteousness and voting power. The collectivist only needs to conceal any hope of finding prosperity beyond the generosity of the State, and keep the lower class convinced that government is the only moral actor in the economy. Review the speeches of Barack Obama, and search for anything that suggests the poor should look anywhere beyond the government and its social programs for salvation.

It’s clear that the middle class is the great enemy of collectivism. Only they have the combination of voting power, money, and economic self-interest to see the growth of government as undesirable, and provide effective resistance. They generally view their interactions with government in a negative light – they’ve all spent time in the Department of Motor Vehicles mausoleum, spent hours wrestling with tax forms, or been slapped with a traffic citation they don’t think they deserved. They understand the inefficiency and emotional instability of government, and instinctively resent its intrusion into their lives. A health-care takeover is the best chance collectivists will ever have of persuading the middle class to vote itself into chains… but for the better part of a century, they’ve been able to hear the hammers of the State ringing on the metal of those chains, in the forges of taxation and regulation.

The middle class is a vast group in a capitalist society, which is one of the things collectivists really hate about capitalism. Its upper reaches include the entrepreneurs and small business owners that bring economic vitality. Virtually every aspect of Obama’s agenda is designed to injure or burden small businessmen, and this is no accident. Despite their angry rhetoric about giant corporations, leftists have little trouble controlling them. They often do business directly with the government, as vendors… and, through lobbyists, as customers. They generally employ members of labor unions, which serve as a de facto arm of Big Government, injecting the agenda of the State directly into the corporate bloodstream. It’s the small business owners and self-employed, along with those who aspire to join their ranks, who are the most difficult to control, and the most likely to muster effective electoral resistance to the statist agenda. The middle class is filled with people who pay attention to the second page of their paycheck stubs.

I realize all of the above sounds terribly sinister… and perhaps you find that appropriate, having reviewed the works of Saul Alinsky and the Cloward-Piven strategy of manufactured crisis. I believe it is crucial to understand that it doesn’t matter if the people engineering a collectivist state have sinister motives or not. In fact, the belief that their intentions make a difference is incredibly dangerous. It’s related to the catechism of the faculty-lounge Marxist, which holds that communism and fascism only failed because bad people were in charge of them. In his interview last night, the President gave this as his reason for pushing so forcefully for his health-care takeover plan:

The reason I tackled healthcare wasn’t because this was my personal hobbyhorse. The reason I tackled it was during the course of the campaign, I traveled all across this country and I kept on hearing heart-breaking stories about families who were bankrupt because they got sick. If they had health insurance, suddenly insurance companies were doing things that were just plain wrong, and were leaving folks in an extremely vulnerable position.

It doesn’t matter if this is his sincere belief, spoken straight from the heart. His health-care plan was still an awful idea that united the country in opposition against the increasingly thuggish and arrogant methods he used to advance it. Those methods are integral to the collectivist enterprise. It will always become thuggish and arrogant, because when all virtue resides in the State, those who oppose the growth of the State become villains by definition. Consider the President’s assessment of his Republican opponents:

My hope was a year ago today when I was being sworn in that reversing that process was going to be easier partly because we were entering into a crisis situation and I thought that the urgency of the moment would allow us to join together and make common cause. That hasn’t happened. Some of it, frankly, is I think a strategic decision that was made on the side of the opposition that… I think that some of it had to do with a sense that the best political strategy was to simply say no.

Here, in a nutshell, is the heads-we-win, tails-you-lose mentality that keeps the State plodding blindly forward, crushing a formerly vibrant economy beneath it. If you don’t answer Obama’s trillion-dollar health-care plan with your own trillion-dollar program, you’re an obstructionist – not an opponent to be debated, but an obstacle to be swept aside. The middle class is frustrated because they understand the basic concept of fiscal responsibility, and they know they – and their children – will be expected to pay for these titanic solutions.

They also know they’ll have very little to say about how the money is spent, because they don’t have the lobbying power of the core Democrat constituencies. They certainly won’t be “controlling” Big Government through their votes. It took a political apocalypse, triggered by an incredible Republican win in Massachusetts, to frighten the Democrats out of ramming their health care plan down America’s throat. How many times can the middle class, composed of individuals trying to live their lives and take care of their families, expect to generate such a powerful shock wave? In the collectivist future, those individuals won’t be waging epic battles to preserve their liberties. They’ll be haggling over percentage increases in their benefits.

The frustration of the middle class is the angry confusion of people who can appreciate the opportunities Big Government denies them. It is the anxiety of those who hear the businesses who employ them relentlessly demonized, while the ruling class is never held responsible for its foolishness, waste, and theft. It is the resentment of people who suffer through disasters that President Obama and his allies regard as opportunities. It’s the hearty distrust of a State, and its media apparatus, that declares every frigid blast of bad economic news to be “unexpected” – but expects us to believe it can predict market fluctuations, technological advances, and even the global climate.

The President says “I have every interest in seeing a unified country solving big problems.” The rest of us have an interest in being allowed to pursue our individual solutions to those problems, according to the liberties our Constitution says belong to us as absolutely as our souls. We can see the wreckage of those “unified” solutions strewn through our past, and littering the rest of the world. Our frustration is born of intelligence and moral strength, not stubborn blindness.

Cross-posted at www.doczero.org.

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Comment pages: 1 2

Nicely done Doc! Thank you!

margategop517 on January 22, 2010 at 11:51 PM

Dr. Zero has given his name. And he should be writing not a conservative manifesto, but a capitalist manifesto. What is ailing us is a massive reduction in our freedom. If we fix that, everything else will take care of itself. Hopefully Dr. Zero’s words will reach a much larger audience like the Republican Convention in 2012. It’s time to loudly and clearly make the case for freedom and individualism.

Government or Freedom, choose one.

JeffB. on January 23, 2010 at 1:34 AM

How many times can the middle class, composed of individuals trying to live their lives and take care of their families, expect to generate such a powerful shock wave? In the collectivist future, those individuals won’t be waging epic battles to preserve their liberties. They’ll be haggling over percentage increases in their benefits.

This is the problem in a nutshell. It’s inevitable in a social democracy. I saw it in Sweden during the decade that I lived there.

There is a lack of vitality in the Swedish people. It comes from expecting the government to take care of the essentials. There is no sense of community volunteer spirit, as when people get together to complete a local project. They consider the need for something like that an imposition on their time. That’s the government’s job.

They don’t even understand what they have lost.

disa on January 23, 2010 at 9:53 AM

Brilliant, again, Dr.Z!

You should be giving the SOTU response.

Disturb the Universe on January 21, 2010 at 4:49 PM

I second that!

disa on January 23, 2010 at 9:58 AM

leilani on January 22, 2010 at 3:20 PM

Waaait a minute – why wasn’t this promoted to the blog? I linked from Instapundit or I wouldn’t have even seen this.

NRO should have this essay.

disa on January 23, 2010 at 10:02 AM

He does not understand this country and the millions of people who make it work. One only has to listen to him preachin’. That’s all he does. That’s all he can do. When I hear him I cringe and wonder who the he// he thinks he’s talking to.

You know, this – more than any question of birthplace – is what is “not American” about Obama. It’s like he’s an alien or something.

disa on January 23, 2010 at 10:17 AM

And this exposition should make it perfectly clear why Lenin and Stalin considered it mandatory to destroy the kulaks, who were the ‘middle-class’ of Russia.

rgn on January 23, 2010 at 10:54 AM

It’s clear that the middle class is the great enemy of collectivism. Only they have the combination of voting power, money, and economic self-interest to see the growth of government as undesirable, and provide effective resistance. They generally view their interactions with government in a negative light – they’ve all spent time in the Department of Motor Vehicles mausoleum, spent hours wrestling with tax forms, or been slapped with a traffic citation they don’t think they deserved.

But, they call those entitlements middle class entitlements for a reason. Most people in the middle class have members of their family getting some benefit from government. Their parents or grandparents are on medicare or even medicaid. I work in health care and I know a lot of people in the middle class who let grannie go on medicaid because they could not afford to pay the $70,000 a year for the nursing home. People have kids getting government backed loans, they count on social security to help sustain Mom so that they don’t have to worry about her..etc. Of course middle class people pay taxes to support all this, but it is not as if only poor people get checks from the government.

Terrye on January 23, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Dr. Z, this is brilliantly written.

But like Terrye I had the same thought she did about middle class entitlements (and I don’t even work in the medical field.)

If you look at the trajectory for ss, medicaid, medicare, it is unsustainable. The middle class is going to have to wean itself from its dependency on these government entitlements.

I would like you to address this, Doctor Z.

chris999 on January 23, 2010 at 3:00 PM

I got here from instapundit, by the way. I am impressed and will look for your stuff in future.

chris999 on January 23, 2010 at 3:01 PM

we were entering into a crisis situation and I thought that the urgency of the moment would allow us to join together and make common cause.

YOU LIE, Barack. You thought that would PANIC us into letting you and your fellow Democrats do whatever you wanted.

Some of it, frankly, is I think a strategic decision that was made on the side of the opposition that…

The vast right-wing conspiracy again?

I guess he really does think all of us actually are that stupid. What a jackass.

JimC on January 23, 2010 at 3:20 PM

But, they call those entitlements middle class entitlements for a reason. Most people in the middle class have members of their family getting some benefit from government. Their parents or grandparents are on medicare or even medicaid. I work in health care and I know a lot of people in the middle class who let grannie go on medicaid because they could not afford to pay the $70,000 a year for the nursing home. People have kids getting government backed loans, they count on social security to help sustain Mom so that they don’t have to worry about her..etc. Of course middle class people pay taxes to support all this, but it is not as if only poor people get checks from the government.

Terrye on January 23, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Middle-class entitlements are a vital component in the perpetual-motion machine of statism. The middle class provides the bulk of the funding for Big Government, which is only too happy to use their own money to buy their votes. The current model of American socialism taxes dollars from the middle class, then expects them to swoon with gratitude when it returns nickels and dimes of value through “entitlements” they should be free to purchase themselves, from competitive providers.

I’ve always found it interesting that people still accept the language of charity to alleviate desperate poverty, as part of the sales pitch for government programs that are designed to build dependency among the working poor and middle class. Most average folks who supported the concept of ObamaCare did so out of sincere concern for the ever-changing number of “uninsured.” The architects of that program were much more interested in gaining control of the vastly larger population that already had insurance.

The beginning of the end for the doomed ideology we think of as “American liberalism” lies in the realization that it’s not about distributing wealth. It’s about distributing poverty, and that will never be a good deal for a nation with a prosperous middle class.

Doctor Zero on January 23, 2010 at 3:24 PM

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