By Ed Raymond
There Are Many Reasons Why Our Middle Class Is Disappearing
English novelist Charles Dickens, who experienced both poverty and wealth in his lifetime, included both poor and rich in his novels, particularly in Bleak House, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and A Tale of Two Cities. Remember Scrooge and Tiny Tim in Christmas Carol?
Raised in London in a family of eight, Charles went to work in a shoe-black factory when he was twelve because his father was thrown into debtor’s prison during a recession. Charles earned six shillings a week putting labels on bottles of shoe black to help his family survive. He later traveled the world with wealth earned from writing about real lives and economic inequality in England.
When Dickens was a poor kid working a shift in London in 1824, the city was the largest in the world with a population of 2.6 million, with another 200,000 workers who walked to work from outside the city limits each working day. Visitors could smell London from miles away. It had no functioning sewer system except for 200,000 cesspools that often went uncleaned for years. The Thames River served as an open sewer filled with refuse and dead animals and humans. The basement of Buckingham Palace smelled of human feces.
About 25,000 horses were used for transportation of people and delivery of goods. The average horse also delivers about 40 pounds of manure each day to the streets that were called “muddy.” Actually, 80% of the mud was a million pounds of manure from animals. About two million cattle, pigs, and sheep were driven into the city every year to be butchered for markets scattered around the city. Just walking on the “muddy” sidewalks and crossing the streets was an adventure. Some poor made a living clearing streets of “mud” and carrying women with their long skirts across the street for tips. The term “smog” came from London, combining two words “fog” and “smoke” into one.
In Order to Thrive, Human Beings Must Fulfill Five Basic Needs to Survive
Psychologist Abraham Maslow defined five human basic needs in his “Hierarchy of Needs”: food, water, clothing, shelter, and sleep. If a person could fulfill their basic needs, they could then progress to a safe and secure life: personal security, emotional security, financial security, health and well-being, and actions against accidents and illness.
In 1850 London, living conditions were so poor for most that the life expectancy was 40 years for men and 42 for women. It has taken 170 years to double life expectancy in England. The Divided States of America is about two years behind England in life expectancy because of our world-leading rate of death by COVID-19 and its variants.
We know the human body has the components and potential to live beyond 100 years. If we are to finally reach 100-year life expectancy, we will have to figure out how to save Planet Earth from a short life expectancy.
Poverty is the great killer. Cynics for decades have been saying: “The poor will always be with us.” I now realize I was never poor because my basic needs were satisfied. I could progress to the “thriving” stage.
A new study from the United Nations Development Program indicates nine out of every ten countries have slid backward on the Human Development Index, the first time it has happened in three decades of the Index. The report measures health, education, and standards of living. Countries lost ground because of wars, COVID-19 and global crises aggravated by economic inequality.
Here are a few reasons why Divided States of America poor cannot earn their basic needs and move up to the middle class: (1) the median home price in 1950 was 2.2 times the average annual income; by 2020 it was six times average annual income, (2) spending per child grew 200% from 1972 to 2007, (3) family premiums for employer-based health insurance rose 47% between 2011 and 2021 and deductibles increased out-of-pocket expenses by 70%, (4) brand-name drug prices on Medicare Part D rose 236% between 2009 and 2018, and (5) between 1980 and 2018 the average cost of an undergraduate education rose by 169%. I don’t have room for the next 100 reasons!
How Did We Get Into This Current Mess? How Much Money Is in a Trickle?
We had a strong White middle class for three decades after World War II because of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, Social Security, unemployment insurance, labor laws, growth of unions, and the GI Bill, which made college affordable for millions of veterans. These policies helped to fill the basic needs of millions.
But then came Ronald Reagan with his California Mafia on January 20, 1981, ranting about Black Chicago welfare queens driving new Cadillacs to pick up their monthly checks and tax cuts for the rich.
The problem: poor people have been proven to be more generous than the rich. I still remember a New York City charity food drive among K-12 schools about 25 years ago to replenish food banks in poor sections. The poorer schools were strikingly more generous than schools that were in wealthier sections. This was no surprise to social and behavioral researchers who had long known that wealthy people are more likely to be selfish and act unethically. They cheat on some taxes and often travel the world to find havens for their assets.
As for the living conditions of a large majority of our poor 170 years after Dickens, they are still living close to manure-laden streets and properties and near huge pork, beef, and egg factories polluting the air, water, and minds. A nearby feedlot or hog “mansion” can bring tears to the eyes and sharp poisons and painful jabs to the nose. Because of low property values, racial red-lining, and growth of gated communities, the poor are also forced to live close to oil refineries, chemical plants, and steel mills pouring barrels of pollutants into rivers and ground, and cancer-carrying “smog” into the air. Sometimes changes take centuries.
How Could a Smart Guy Like Chief Justice John Roberts Be so Wrong About Race?
Was it ignorance or politics? It certainly wasn’t voting-rights laws. Back in 2013 Chief Justice Roberts remarked that the election of Barack Obama proved racial discrimination no longer existed in the United States. Entire sections of the Voting Rights Act could be deleted to trash.
If he really believed that, how could he have passed a history class at any level? The minute his personally written majority opinion in the 2013 Shelby case which outlawed preclearance requirements for voting in former Confederate states hit the mainstream news, hundreds of voting bills were produced and introduced to legislatures. Thousands of race-baiting politicians representing millions of White racists voted for changes.
No more discrimination??! My ass! John Roberts had to be a Ku Klux Klanner in White underwear under his Black robe! When he made his White supremacist statement, Black men had the shortest life expectancy in the U.S. They still do.
Recent research, now known as John Henryism, reveals that “the unrelenting stress of fighting systemic racism can alter a body’s normal functioning until it starts to wear down.” The six race-denying Republican justices on the Supreme Court should read the Pro Publica article titled “Black Men Have the Shortest Lifespans of Any Americans. This Theory Helps Explain Why.”
Medical studies point out that Black people have extremely high rates of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and strokes, and develop these conditions about ten years earlier than White people do. These health conditions are caused by stress. From the studies: “The constant stress of striving to succeed in the face of social inequality and structural racism can cause lasting physical damage.”
The legend of the steel-driving Black man came from a worker in the Great Bend Tunnel in 1874. John Henry was a prime physical specimen who pounded steel pilings through solid rock with a ten-pound hammer in each hand. The contractor decided to try steam-powered machines to drive the pilings. John Henry challenged the machine and drove steel through 14 feet of rock while the steam machine only drove nine. But John Henry died of exhaustion after his challenge. That’s why this study about life expectancy is named the John Henryism Theory.
Pete Seeger wrote the “Ballad of John Henry” which has been sung by male singers with powerful bass voices. I prefer the Johnny Cash and Tennessee Ford versions. The legend lives on in one line when John Henry tells the captain of industry: “You are nothing but a common man / before that steam drill shall beat me down/ I’ll die with a hammer in my hand.”
Why Do Black Players Dominate the NBA. NFL, and Most Track Events in the U.S.?
Blacks are taller, faster, have better coordination, faster reactions, and can jump higher than Whites. They dominate amateur and professional sports that require size, speed, athletic ability, quick reactions, intelligence—and the ability to jump. We are all human. What are the reasons for the development?
People have been fired for telling the truth. researchers have different answers for the question of why it’s true in some sports. Back in 1987 before American Blacks were replaced in baseball by Latin American Hispanics, I was watching Al Campanis, an executive with the Los Angeles Dodgers, try to answer a tough question from Ted Koppel on national television: “Why are Black players beginning to dominate Major League baseball?” Poor Al stumbled around and finally said: “Perhaps it’s because Black slaves were selected for breeding because of size, strength, and physical ability.” Al was quickly fired for being a racist. I think he was telling the truth. Medical authorities have tried to answer the question by citing genes, environment, and training. I think Al was right.
I watch college basketball all winter because I love the competitiveness of the game. I played eight years of high school and college football and baseball—but only intramural basketball. The young Black basketballers are the best amateur athletes in the world. They can dribble, pass, shoot the ball, jump high, and run fast. The best college teams have a strong majority of Black players. Of ten players on the court, eight are probably Black. The White Midwest Big Ten best teams will often square off with ten Blacks on the court.
In the Olympics, usually the ten fastest dash and hurdles men and women are Black. In one Olympics, the fastest ten men and women were all descendants of slaves.
Here are critical facts of numbers of Black players in pro sports: (1) NFL-78%, (2) NBA-84%, (3) MLB-8%, PGA-9.5%, Tennis-6%, NHL-7%. In Major League baseball, Hispanics from Latin America now dominate with 58%. Very few Blacks make Olympic swim teams, pro golf, or pro tennis because Black families can’t afford to own shares or belong to country clubs with tennis courts, golf courses, and swimming pools. Please notice only7% of pro hockey players are Black. Ice time and equipment are rather expensive.
Cement basketball courts and grass soccer and football fields are usually built by school or park districts. Economic inequality, never mentioned by President Joe it’s-no-joke Biden, still dominates our society.
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