Sunday, February 5, 2012

State of the Middle Class

First, I'd like to just say that I thought I had posted this on Thursday, but that is clearly not the case. Maybe I was hallucinating, or maybe I'm just inept with technology. Either way, this is general idea of what I said in my earlier, lost to the depths of the internet, post.

I know we didn't get much of a chance to discuss Obama's State of the Union in class, so I just wanted to pose my thoughts on the matter to the class.

It would be, at best, naive for me to say that I was at all surprised that the speech focused so heavily on economic, specifically class-based, issues. Even with the job market on a recent upswing, the Occupy movement has colored most Americans' view of the economy in some form or another. Everyone has an opinion. While some would argue that those of the 99% who participated in Occupy went against the ideal Protestant work ethic described in Craven, others would point out the institutional advantages available solely to the 1% as outlined by Stiglitz. However, this is simply a recap of in-class discussions.

Obama's speech privileged the Protestant work ethic, the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality that has dominated American social and economic thought for generations. I'm not trying to say that this framework is inherently incorrect, but at the same time it clearly doesn't apply to today's society. Even though the disconnect between ideal and reality is clear, there is still a national desire to believe in the American Dream and believe in the pretense of upward social mobility. Obama even acknowledged the disparity in his speech:

The basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement. 
The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive.  No challenge is more urgent.  No debate is more important.  We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.
Of course, there are other, potentially more interesting aspects of the 2012 State of the Union. However, as someone who is interested in going into political planning and campaigning, the quality of language is always fascinating to me. Rather than disremembering a traumatic past, it seems as though every political campaign aspires to glorify the mythologized history of America, a mythology that may serve the American people better if forgotten.

No comments:

Post a Comment