Guest View: Class warfare a probability |

Guest View: Class warfare a probability

Stanford University, historically, has not been known to be overly concerned with the status of the middle class, let alone the very poor in our society. It is an excellent educational institution, but it’s very expensive and its students, in its early years, came from the wealthiest families in our society.

On the other side of the coin, we find my alma mater, an equally impressive educational institution, the University of California, Berkeley. That student body has always been more diversified than that at Stanford, and it costs much less to attend. Berkeley has long concerned itself with the decline of the middle class and the continuing disparity in the distribution of wealth in America. As a result, UC Berkeley is often accused by conservatives of promoting class warfare. (Go Bears!)

Those fearful of class warfare well understand and, unfortunately, approve the fact that the high-tech, global economy that has driven our own economy since the 1960s has conferred most of its benefits on a chosen few high-income taxpayers. The middle-class worker, on the other hand, has seen his wages decrease, his cost of living increase and his job disappearing overseas.

Interestingly, the conservative Stanford University is beginning to sense that something is wrong with the distribution of income in America. In a radical change of its former reluctance to state its views on the distribution of wealth, it has strongly entered the pending class warfare and seems to be on the side of those criticizing the existing distribution of our wealth.

The Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality recently was created at Stanford. “We wanted to build a new center around the themes of addressing the worldwide gap between the haves and the have nots,” said Karen Cook, the chair of the department sponsoring the study. They also cited the depressing fact that the gap between the rich and the poor in America is at its widest in 80 years!

Pathways is a new magazine published by the center. The editors submitted invitations to all the candidates for president from both parties to submit essays for publication stating their views on poverty and the distribution of income in America. All the Democrats responded to the offer to publish their views. All the Republicans declined the invitation.

The Democrats repeated generally their views as they had been expressing them on the campaign trail. They offered policies designed to restore a more just distribution of income and thereby, strengthen the middle class. The refusal of the Republican candidates to accept the invitation from Stanford must cause one to conclude that such issues are not of much concern to the high and mighty of the Republican Party. They appear to believe that the present distribution of wealth is quite satisfactory to the folks they represent and the middle class needs no strengthening.

They are wrong, terribly wrong.

The wealthy have no problem living within their incomes. But the middle-class wage earner is under constant attack. Their jobs are shipped overseas. Their wages have not kept up with living expenses.

The children of the wealthy have no problems financing a college education. But those of the middle class and the poor do have such problems – often insurmountable.

The wealthy have no concerns about medical care. They can afford to go to a doctor anytime and anywhere they want. But without job-related medical care, vast members of the middle class would be dangerously exposed as their health insurance disappears.

Nor do the wealthy families of America fear the loss of their home by foreclosure. But the middle-class family knows what it is like to be ousted from their home because of their inability to meet the monstrous monthly costs foisted upon them by a fraudulent loan industry.

And the wealthy have no fears of bankruptcy. But for the middle class, bankruptcy filings are at the highest percentages in decades.

Class warfare is not desirable, but it is understandable and inevitable unless our government begins to recognize the desperate economic troubles that America’s middle-class families are now experiencing. Wealth is a status every American hopes to attain. That hope will be achieved more readily if the sagging economic well-being of the middle class is recognized as an immediate crisis deserving prompt and dedicated governmental action.

– Jerome Waldie is a former U.S. congressman and a Placerville resident.

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