Today, I am visiting my parents' home and went for a walk that included a stroll down the commercial strip on the busy street near their house. Along this commercial strip in a solid middle-class neighborhood in Peoria, Illinois, is a small red brick building that thirty years ago I remember housing an insurance agency. What is there today? A payday lender.Where are the muckrackers of today? Back the last time America suffered under the thumb of a "gilded age" there was a very active set of journalists digging up the dirt to inform Americans of how they were being taken to the cleaners by the big business of its day, the trusts. I suspect the problem is that ownership of the media has gone from being a small company enterprise to being behemoth corporations today owned by a billionaire right wing nut (did somebody say Rupert Murdoch?) and so nothing gets printed. This is a tragedy. Only an informed public can rise up to confront this madness that is running America into the ground while letting the rich stuff their pockets with all the cash they have looted from taxcuts and special deals wrangled from obliging Republicans.
My stroll turned into my own personal metaphor for the change in the middle class over the past generation. In place of an institution that cushioned against risk, the neighborhood now has an institution that creates it.The local bowling alley is shuttered as well -- everyone now just can "bowl alone."
The payday lender that inspired this post does not even really stand out. In that one-quarter mile stretch of that commercial strip, there are are now five payday or auto title lenders.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
The Passing of the American Middle Class
Here is a very perceptive and poignant reflection on the passing of the American middle class by Bob Lawless at the Credit Slips blog: