I was introduced to Dennis Marker by a mutual acquaintance who encouraged me to read Marker's recently published book, "Fifteen Steps to Corporate Feudalism – How the Rich Convinced America's Middle Class to Eliminate Themselve”.
Although the title sums up the premise of the book, I was surprised that the author set out to make the case that “the rich” have consciously and intentionally taken up the mantle to destroy the middle class. The notion seemed like an easily dismissable conspiracy theory – one I'd heard before. Had the recommendation to read the book not come from someone whose opinion I respect, I wouldn't have taken the time.
As I tried to get through the first couple of chapters, my inner thoughts kept whispering, “conspiracy theory”. The main premise – that the rich have specifically targeted the middle class for economic annihilation – was just not believable to me.
To be clear, I've been aware for quite some time that our economic policies favor the rich and that corporate interests generally win out over the public interest in this country. But, like most, I assumed the shrinking of the middle class was a by-product of greed on the part of powerful interests and a lack of a coordinated counter-effort on the part of those affected – the 99%.
I figured that it was in the best interest of everyone, including the top 1%, to have a healthy middle class. Somehow I just expected there would be a course correction of sorts and perhaps the Occupy movement was going to be the engine that drove that correction. The notion that the rich had implemented a diabolical strategy to erase the economic power of the rest of us just didn't compute.
I needed to contact the author, if I was going to get through the book at all.
I called Dennis Marker not knowing what to expect. To my delight, he is an affable guy who has spent the last few years of his life raising his now teenage son. But before that, Marker was an “insider” in the Beltway. He spent years in D.C. establishing a successful career. He worked for U.S. Congressman Stan Lundine, served as in-house consultant to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Doug Costle, and was special assistant to Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine among others. [You can hear Dennis Marker being interviewed in this YouTube clip]
Marker told me that the years he spent in Washington helped to clarify his vision. Initially, early in his career, before the damage to the middle class had taken such an exacting toll, Marker was content working in the Beltway – earning a decent living. But he says that the policies that began to surface during the Reagan Administration gave him pause. Expecting these policies to fail, Marker thought he'd see a reversal over time but, he said, “the bad policies were never reversed, in fact, over the past 30 years, beginning with the Reagan administration, the middle class has been fighting a losing battle.”
Emphasizing that these policies were specifically designed to hurt the middle class, Marker first reminded me and the reader that the American middle class is a relatively new phenomenon, prior to the Industrial Revolution, an employee-based middle class didn't exist. Speaking from an historical perspective, Marker points out that people working for someone else have typically been bound in some type of economic servitude where the worker has had little to no value.
Then, the labor movement that came about as a result of the Industrial Revolution helped to establish value in labor and a healthy middle class was born. But, says Marker, the rich never wanted the establishment of a middle class – they fought against policies that supported it every step of the way. As he spoke I could see where he was going and I was reminded of the Frederick Douglass quote, “Power concedes nothing without a demand”. Marker was beginning to open my eyes.
As I listened, I too started to get some clarity on this issue but I continued to hold to the notion that, like the rest of us, the rich have benefited from having a strong middle class, in spite of their opposition to the policies that created it -- why would they want to get rid of it? I asked Dennis what would motivate the top 1% to get rid of the middle class when it is clear that they need it – who's going to buy the goods that are manufactured?”, I asked.
Conceding that my point was a good one, Mark went on to explain that 30 years ago the question of who would buy the goods protected the middle class but today, he said, technological advances in communications, transportation, automation and the like have changed the mutual dependencies that once existed between the American middle class and the super rich. They just don't need America's middle class the way did in an earlier era. Those days are gone.
According to Marker, in the rich's grand scheme of things, the American middle class has become an unessential element. They've outlived their purpose because they've been replaced by a world market.
Marker set out to make a point I initially found difficult to swallow, but as our conversation continued, he began to give me an overview of fifteen policies that set the stage for the demise of the middle class. This helped me to see the importance of his book. We talked a bit longer but I wanted to end the conversation because I was now ready to read the book – this time giving it my full undivided attention and so should you.
He explains that the failure of the US middle class is the direct and intentional outcome of fifteen separate policies first advocated during the Reagan administration and implemented over thirty years. He discusses how and why this is happening, which gives the reader the information needed to counter this attack.
Florida Congressional candidate, Alan Grayson asks, “Can't find a decent job: Can't afford to see a doctor when you're sick? In danger of losing your home? Can't save for retirement? Have no idea how to pay for your children's college? The right wing says it's all your fault, but it's not, and this book explains why.”
As we look at our country and wonder how we could have gotten into such a sad state, laden with economic injustice and inequality -- ironically, it's good to know we didn't get here by accident. We are involved in a planned attack. Understanding the plan, or at the very least -- understanding that we are being attacked puts us in a better position to do battle.
I strongly encourage everyone reading this article to click this link to learn more about 15 Steps to Corporate Feudalism
Publisher, LA Progressive