The United States has undergone "Brazilification," a term coined to describe the “widening gulf between the rich and the poor and the accompanying disappearance of the middle classes.”
It's been going on for decades, back as far as the Reagan era, and the war on the American middle class already may have been lost - for good.
Yes, the unemployment rate has edged down to 7.6 percent, but America is well on its way to becoming a nation of part-timers and full-time temps. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of involuntary part-time workers rose by 322,000 to 8.2 million in June, while the ranks of temporary-help service employees have swelled to a record 2.68 million. Meanwhile, the employment-population ratio, the percentage of adult Americans who hold a job, has dropped nearly 2 percent to 58.7 percent since Barack Obama took office.
For now, see the grim world of Bruce Springsteen’s 2012 album Wrecking Ball. For the future, look for pockets of wealth surrounded by functional despair, where the “haves” are cocooned or walled-off from the “have-nots.” As Sherman McCoy said in Bonfire of the Vanities, “Insulate! Insulate!” And the Masters of the Met do just that.
But America was supposed to be different, and for a long time, it was. Now, in the charged words of Charles Murray, “America is coming apart.”
According to Murray, “for most of our nation’s history, whatever the inequality in wealth between the richest and poorest citizens, we maintained a cultural equality known nowhere else in the world—for whites, anyway.” But not anymore, as Murray describes an ever-widening gap that is not simply spatial, but an ever more insurmountable one that runs from cradle to grave.
Of course Canada is not America, true enough. But we're not safely distinct from America either nor are we immune to its contagions. Some months ago I read of Harper FinMin and garden gnome, Jimbo Flaherty's, annual retreat for top Canadian CEO's where the big boys would get away to relax and hand Jimbo their shopping list of legislative changes. The gist of this account was that our Captains of Industry routinely press our corporatist government for changes to bring us into line with conditions to the south and, judging by Harper's relentless war on organized labour, the Tories seem quite willing to deliver.
Are we going to go the way of the United States? The only thing you need do to guarantee that outcome is to imagine it could never happen here.