Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Blast From the Past - Remember the "Middle Class"?

Wow, those were the days back when we had this Middle Class. It was great. It was broad-based spanning all the way from the trades through to the professions. We even had to divide it into upper and lower middle class. It was the extended ladder of social mobility by which everyone from the poor on up could strive for something better.

It was the stuff of dreams. It was also the cornerstone of liberal democracy and it flourished through an informed and empowered electorate the political classes dared not ignore.

Then along came this thing called globalization. We were force fed enough lies that we went along with it. Bit by bit our governments ceded sovereign powers to transnational corporations until they finally relinquished the essential democratic power to regulate the constant struggle between labour and capital. Capital won - by capitulation and betrayal.

Once the agreements had been inked there was nothing to prevent capital giving the middle class a good and enduring pistol-whipping. Entire sectors of the economy, especially those that had built the middle classes, were simply loaded on barges and sailed to distant lands. Liberal democracy fell into decline. Inequality flourished.

Well in the midst of this sadness and woe there's news!! No, the middle class isn't staging a comeback. It's not good news. It's bad news of a double whammy coming the way of what remains of the middle class. The new threat, according to a report from the Swiss Bank, UBS,  is called climate change.

The report said middle-class households are already changing their lifestyles in the cities most exposed to hotter temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather such as storms and floods.

"More fear, less fun is how we might sum it up," said the study https://www.ubs.com/microsites/climatechange/en/home.html.

In places with high risks of climate-related shocks, people spend more on the upkeep of their properties. And homes may decrease in value if certain places become less appealing to live, eating into wealth, the report said.

Efforts to adapt to changing climate conditions - which remain modest and sporadic among the middle class - can also bring new costs.

In cities that suffer extreme heat, the middle-class is increasingly laying out for air conditioning, the report noted.

But some types of adaptation can create "a negative feedback loop", it warned. For instance, higher demand for air conditioning requires more electricity, which can lead to grid failure and increased planet-warming emissions.

In addition, inadequate infrastructure and health care systems increase the need to rely on emergency government support when disasters strike. "In our assessment this is likely, even in the richest of countries," the report said.

The largest cities are home to nearly a quarter of the global population and generate around half of global GDP, the report said.

The thing is, like it or no, we're just going to have to get smaller, a lot smaller. There's just less stuff to go around than we were brought up to imagine. And some places, especially low-lying coastal cities like BC's Lower Mainland and the major cities of China and India are going to face some very costly challenges from sea level rise among other things.

What's interesting about the UBS report is what isn't mentioned - the very wealthy, those who today enjoy the fruits of the great unearned transfer of wealth out of the now gutted middle class. Apparently they'll be just fine. Figures.

1 comment:

Hugh said...

The economy must get bigger, not smaller. So they say.