Screwed | Thom Hartmann

Summary of: Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class – And What We Can Do about It: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class — and What We Can Do About It (BK Currents (Paperback))
By: Thom Hartmann

Introduction

Venture into the alarming truth behind the steady decline of America’s middle class with Thom Hartmann’s Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class. This gripping summary lays bare the consequences of an interconnected web of unsound policies dating back to the 1980s, which have left the middle class hanging by a thread. Explore the nexus between the decline in union membership, weakened health insurance policies, an increasing wealth gap, and wage stagnation. Hartmann invites readers to question the erosion of democracy caused by the focus on corporate interests and inherited wealth that undermine the values on which America was built. As the heart of American democracy is jeopardized, the book shows the urgent need for revitalizing the middle class and taking a stand against those who want to maintain the status quo.

America’s Crisis of the Vanishing Middle Class

The middle class has been under attack since the early 1980s, with a decline in union memberships, a loss of manufacturing jobs, and a drop in defined-benefits pension plans. These issues, coupled with a decline in personal and economic freedoms, are pushing people out of the middle class. The founders of the Constitution recognized the importance of a healthy and well-informed middle class, necessary for an effective democracy. Yet today, more families are struggling to make ends meet, with the average CEO salary skyrocketing, and the minimum wage amounting to less than the poverty line. America’s crisis of the vanishing middle class raises important questions about the state of democracy and the future of equality in the country.

The Battle between Democracy and a Corporatocracy

The emergence of “Cons” in American politics has caused a decline in middle-class prosperity and a threat to democracy. The Cons represent corporate interests and inherited wealth, and their influence has resulted in worsening working conditions and no retirement prospects for American workers. There are two branches of Cons: predators and true believers. Predators prioritize themselves, send jobs overseas, and disregard environmental policies. True believers promote elitist government and favor trickle-down economics. President Ronald Reagan’s policies of minimal government and minimal taxes on high incomes resulted in history’s biggest federal deficit, and his tax cuts for the wealthy did not benefit the middle class. The George W. Bush administration’s hidden faith in corporate control brought about cuts in Social Security and Medicare. The Cons’ interest in corporate power and creeping privatization threatens American democracy. It is up to Americans to choose whether democracy or a corporatocracy will rule the country.

Rebuilding the Middle Class

The middle-class can be revived through protective measures for US industries, progressive income tax, and reasonable wages for workers. The government must initiate spending on public projects, which pay decent wages, and improve infrastructure to sustain local communities. The rebuilding process requires tackling commonly held myths such as smaller government equals lower taxes and greater efficiency. The Hurricane Katrina incident is an example that downsized government does not mean more effective governance. Instead, smaller governments tend to work for corporations and inherited wealth. Another myth is that privatization can provide better services than the government. However, public healthcare and social security systems have suffered depletion since privatization, and the privatization of electricity and water utilities has proven to be costly to consumers and the environment. The government should prioritize public welfare over profit-making and refute the agenda of Corporatocracy, making it a conducive environment for reviving a robust middle-class economy.

The role of economic policy in shaping the middle class

The modern middle class was established through the New Deal policies of FDR, which included Social Security, fair labor laws, antitrust enforcement, business regulation, and a progressive income tax. These policies laid the foundation for the middle class’s best days, from 1940 to 1980. However, since the Cons view the middle class differently, their attitude has hampered its growth. By keeping workers on a knife-edge, they attempt to control the cost of labor, thus violating the founders’ view of business as subservient to the government. Their approach has led to conflicts with the government, which regulates the markets to ensure that free marketers do not evade regulations. However, the modern Cons view taxes as undemocratic and portray them as a form of theft, thus violating the embedded social contract that taxes pay for essential infrastructure and national services that everyone needs. Reagan called government help counterproductive, but every citizen benefits from government policies, and their approach has only left soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, a depleted-uranium-contaminated Middle East, and a few dozen fat cats in the defense industry. Thus, it is necessary to handle economic policy with care, as it determines whether the economy benefits billionaires or the rest of us.

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