A recent article by Ben Shapiro regarding the Bernie Sanders campaign for the presidency contained a number of fanciful statements that nearly made me fall out of my chair.
Mr. Shapiro wrote, for example, “America doesn’t actually have a real history of class divisions — we’ve been an overwhelmingly middle-class country for centuries.”
Really? Perhaps Ben was describing early America, when most families were farmers who owned some land. But what about the landless workers, indentured servants, apprentices, slaves and sailors? Were they part of the middle class?
Let’s next consider the era from the Civil War to World War II. Did parents in those decades send their children to work in mills, factories and mines solely because they wanted them to learn the value of hard work? Certainly not. Instead, they went to work to help put food on the table and clothes on their backs.
Did their mothers take in boarders and laundry only because they were bored with their middle-class existence and enjoyed cooking and scrubbing dirty clothes on a washboard? Is anyone stupid enough to believe that? And what of the millions of Southern tenant farmers called sharecroppers who lived for decades in grinding poverty?
Is Mr. Shapiro unaware of the numerous labor battles such as Homestead (1892) and Pullman (1894) not to mention the national rail strike in 1877 and the national steel strike in 1919? Were millions of working-class people so tired of playing golf all day and lounging in their huge mansions that they decided to go on strike?
No Ben, they were struggling against pay cuts and long hours that normally weren’t part of a middle-class lifestyle. Only since the 1940s has a strong labor movement helped a large number of workers enter the middle class, but even today, many in their 60s and 70s work at jobs paying minimum wage or slightly above, and their meager pay barely covers food, medication and utilities.
On the other hand, it is fair to surmise that several generations will pass before the descendants of today’s corporate CEOs will apply for subsidized housing. A classless society, Ben? Only if your blinders allow you to see a right-wing fantasyland.