04 May 2011

Dude, Where's My Office?

Since taking my first gig out of grad school as an environmental engineer, the career landscape has changed -- for the worse.

To wit, few people talk of careers any more for fear of being snickered at by some cynical, beaten-down, itinerant knowledge worker.

Looking back, I realize I have wasted my entire professional life warming increasingly less comfortable chairs in increasingly smaller spaces for proportionally less compensation.

Today I ask you to mourn the hard-working middle class with me. I know, this ain't Rwanda. In comparison, our problems are small and surmountable

Yet you and I have observed 20-plus years of squeezing the middle class in the US into near extinction. I can't say "the squeeze" has been premeditated because I won't let myself degrade into a delusional conspiracy-theorist. More likely, the cause has been benign neglect. Benign neglect via anti-people government policy. NAFTA for example, and the systematic emasculation of regulatory institutions like the USEPA, have added nothing to the job pool.

Corporatist, conservative, anti-union & anti-people policies have eroded society's topsoil - the middle class. We should reverse this assault. What will we leave for our children and our grandchildren?

How do we reverse this trend so your kids and mine might be ever-so-incrementally more hopeful about the future?


  1. 'Society's topsoil' is the working class not the middle class. The working class are not in cubicles but actually make things with their hands and backs in noisy smelly factories and hot fields. The middle class are the sedentary group that thought because they did not have to work with their hands or their backs any more that they would automatically be bourgeois. What we should leave to the future is more respect for the working class, the true topsoil!

  2. Interesting distinction Lance. But since hands-on jobs are nearly extinct in our generation, we, as knowledge workers, are essentially the ditch diggers of this millennium.

  3. Ever eat a carrot grown by a knowledge worker? Ever live in a house built by a knowledge worker? Ever driven on a road paved by a knowledge worker? I bet the nurse that took care of you in the hospital was not a knowledge worker. Hands-on jobs are not faced with extinction.

  4. I'm not sure why we're splitting hairs over the distinction between working class and middle class. The Venn diagram of people who rely on earning a paycheck includes pretty much everyone I know of who is not living off the interest of accumulated wealth. And pretty much all those folks are fucked after 20-30 years of regressive public policy -- fallout from the Reagan revolution.

  5. Splitting hairs? I think focusing on the class warfare between the middle class and the wealthy misses entirely the conflict between the middle class and the poor/working poor. I'm fine with raising taxes on the rich and corporations. But the middle class that has demanded tax cuts (yes - the majority of voters demanding tax cuts are middle class) and more services needs to pay too. Cut counterproductive middle class tax breaks like home mortgage deduction and raise the middle class tax rates with the wealthy. Place need criteria on Social Security and Medicare benefits. Protect Head Start and Medicaid that directly impact the poor.

  6. I get your point now. And, I agree with the gist of your argument.

    With the meteoric concentration of wealth made possible by regressive tax policy, the working poor will continue to siphon off much of the middle class. At this rate, the working poor will eclipse the middle class.

    The steady evaporation of tax revenue has necessitated decreasing support for public institutions like public schools, public libraries, scholarships, etc.,, institutions traditionally leveraged by the working poor and the middle class to bootstrap themselves or to maintain a foothold.

    The poor have always been fucked. Now the middle class must learn what it means to be downwardly mobile (and ignored by an increasingly callous Corporatocracy).


Thank you for commenting.