Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Class System in America Today

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a Professor of Economics at Columbia University. His article "America's Political Class Struggle" focuses on the issue of class in politics. Sachs believes that both parties have strong weaknesses. He states, 'But, like the Republicans, the Democrats, too, are keen to shower tax cuts on their major campaign contributors, predominantly rich Americans.' If politicians favour the rich, in return the rich will benefit the parties during their Presidential campaigns. This demonstrates the injustice being exercised, because the working class and poor are unable to influence politics due to the insufficient amount of money they obtain. As a result, they are unable to change their unfortunate situation and are unable to move up the social ladder; the key element to achieving the American dream is acceptance into the middle-class. Not only are they deprived of this opportunity, but the rich are becoming richer, therefore money is not being equally distributed amongst American society.
The situation is only going to gain momentum downhill, because 'The US budget deficit is enormous and unsustainable. The poor are squeezed by cuts in social programs and a weak job market.' First and foremost, the poor are not only being targeted by such actions, but they are also innocent and unworthy of such punishments, seeing as the government was supposedly in control of spending America's money, not the poor. Hope is given to the poor through social programs and the job market and if these opportunities are taken away, what hope is left for these individuals? The continuation of such cuts will not only worsen the situation of the poor, but the situation of America will worsen. If poor people are unable to obtain jobs, they are unable to pay taxes and consequently unable to aid America financially. Instead, the government is constantly required to offer welfare, but this can only be a temporary measure due to the lack of finances available.
This inequality is however not a new phenomenon. 'Since Ronald Reagan became President in 1981, America’s budget system has been geared to supporting the accumulation of vast wealth at the top of the income distribution.' During the 1980s, America experienced a booming economy, therefore perhaps supporting the rich could be justified. However, it is unlikely that such practices are justifiable in America today because the economy is struggling, therefore the poor need help as oppose to the wealthy.
During attacks on the Republicans, Sachs states the party is willing to 'slash the budget not by ending the useless war in Afghanistan, and by eliminating unnecessary weapons systems, but by cutting education, health, and other benefits for the poor and working class.' The Republicans would argue that the war in Afghanistan has a purpose; democracy. But even if this purpose is fading, troops will supposedly be removed from Afghanistan by 2014, therefore the issue of war is irrelevant in the debate on class struggle. However, Sachs makes an accurate argument, because this is not the first time that war has taken priority over the welfare of poor citizens at home. In the 1960s, Lyndon B. Johnson campaigned for a 'War on Poverty,' however the campaign was not hugely successful, due to America's involvement in the Vietnam War. This involvement not only cost a huge amount of money, but ultimately the war was not a success, therefore the money used could have instead benefited the poor.
However, Sachs believes that the poor will eventually respond to such inequality, as he states 'With their backs against the wall, I predict, poor and working-class Americans will begin to agitate for social justice.' As this article was written in 2010, Sachs has made an accurate foresight, because Occupy Wall Street campaigned against the corrupt nature of wealthy businessmen and institutions. But whether the protest will promote change is debatable, because the government must save money one way or another. Yet the protests do demonstrate that America is capable of exercising democracy by allowing freedom of speech during such hardships.
Sachs admits that money must be saved to reduce the deficit. However, the means of achieving this are questioned, as he asks ' Will it really balance the budget by slashing education spending at a time when US students already are being out-performed by their Asian counterparts?' America can not rely on the minority wealthy population to exercise their intelligence, (even though some have inherited their wealth as oppose to gaining it through merit.) The majority of the population are middle class and working class, therefore these people should receive adequate education. Further, if the poor are ignored in the education system, they will once again be unable to move up the social ladder or help America financially.
Obama is clearly not able to resolve these issues, as Sachs states Obama's 'administration is filled with Wall Street bankers.' This is only Sachs's personal view, as he also states 'Obama swept to power on the promise of change. So far there has been none.' However, fellow Americans also hold this view, therefore if the government is truly 'for the people by the people,' Obama will not be able to benefit the minority wealthy population for much longer.
Thankfully, Sachs offers a solution to the current corrupt political parties, as he states 'If this continues, a third party will emerge, committed to cleaning up American politics and restoring a measure of decency and fairness.' Currently, Sachs proposal has not occurred, seeing as the race for the Presidency is between the Democrats and the Republicans. As a result, there is little hope for America, because the fear of socialism will prevent social action being taken to help the poor. These individuals must simply wait until the unemployment rate reaches 25% as it did during the Great Depression. Maybe then the government will intervene.

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