Saturday, April 1, 2017

Peter Temin's "The Vanishing Middle Class"

Peter Temin is Professor of Economics Emeritus at MIT. His books include The Roman Market Economy.

Temin applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Vanishing Middle Class introduces the third part of the book where the economics and politics explained in the first two parts are shown to affect various parts of life in the current United States.

The first part of the book explains a dual economy and how the United States divided in two over the last forty years. The growing gap between total earnings and wage incomes was captured by well-educated rich people, with the greatest gains going to the very richest. What I call the FTE sector, focusing on finance, technology and electronics that form the core of this sector, separated further and further from what I call the low-wage sector. The middle class that was the pride of the United States earlier in the 20th century is vanishing.

The second part explains how the dual economy affects politics. The FTE sector employs racism and sexism to inflict its will on the low-wage sector. The FTE sector justifies cutting off government programs that helped low-wage workers to advance into the middle class by claiming that blacks and women are using those programs to displace white male workers. The FTE sector has little contact with the low-wage sector and is not interested in helping working men and women of all colors get ahead.

The third part describes our dual justice system; the FTE sector pays fines for illegal activities while the low-wage sector goes to prison. The War on Drugs filled our prisons and caused us to build more as we became a world leader in mass incarceration. The War on Drugs focuses on blacks, and our mass incarceration became a new Jim Crow oppression.

We also have a dual education system; the FTE sector has adequate public schools in suburbs while public schools in cities are denied needed funds and fail low-wage children—particularly black children with incarcerated parents. And we have a dual infrastructure; interstate highways and airports for the FTE sector, and decaying urban streets, bridges, and public transport for low-wage folks.

We increasingly resemble a third world country.
Learn more about The Vanishing Middle Class at the MIT Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Roman Market Economy.

--Marshal Zeringue