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The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy (MIT Press) Hardcover – March 17, 2017
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The Vanishing Middle Class is a book for our unsettled times. We are a divided nation economically and politically, brought on by recent changes in the demand for and supply of skill layered on top of a long history of racial politics. Part social commentary, part history, part academic inquiry, Temin's book tells us how the two parts of the modern dual economy can be glued back together.(Claudia Goldin, Henry Lee Professor of Economics, Harvard University)
Arguing that the high-wage sector promotes inequality and deterioration of the middle class through its disproportionate influence on political decision making in various areas such as criminal justice, education, and social welfare policy, The Vanishing Middle Class is a significant addition to the existing literature on inequality.(Gerald Jaynes, Professor, Department of Economics & African American Studies, Yale University)
There are a great many books to be read on the problem of growing inequality and the attendant social, political and economic issues that both cause it and result from it. If you had to read only one book on the growing crisis, The Vanishing Middle Class is it. Its powerful combination of race and class analysis doesn't hold back any punches in exposing the deliberate and systematic exploitation of the poor and the racialized by a minority of wealthy and mostly white elites in today's America.(PopMatters)
About the Author
Peter Temin is Professor of Economics Emeritus at MIT. He is the coauthor of Keynes: Useful Economics for the World Economy (MIT Press) and of The Leaderless Economy.
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In economics, models are used to help explain an economy. The models are simplified ways of looking at them. Since they are simplified they miss things making them imperfect. That's always the case with economic models. None of them are perfect but some are better than others.
The models he uses in this book is from "W. Arthur Lewis, a professor at the University of Manchester in England, (who) proposed a theory of economic development in a paper published in 1954."
He also won a Nobel Prize in Economics for his "pioneering research into economic development research with particular consideration of the problems of developing countries"
"He noted that development did not progress only country by country, but also by parts of countries. Economic progress was not uniform, but spotty. Ports where merchants organized trade in and out of a county might well grow rich before the country as a whole. Parts of a country might grow apart as a result. Lewis wanted to generalize from examples like this to learn how the parts of such an economy related to each other. Lewis assumed that developing countries often have what has come to be called a dual economy. He termed the two sectors, “capitalist” and “subsistence” sectors. The capitalist sector was the home of modern production using both capital and labor. Its development was limited by the amount of capital in the economy.
The subsistence sector was composed of poor farmers where the population was so large relative to the amount of land or natural resources that the productivity of the last worker put to work—called the “marginal product” by economists—was close to zero. The addition of another farmer would not add to the total production. The new worker would be like a fifth wheel on your car."
Using this model, the "Lewis Model", explains how things like slums can and do form.
The model, when created, was for developing countries.
The author takes that idea and applies it to the US. The frightening part is it works pretty well to describe what we are seeing.
He starts with US history similarity to Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" tying racism to class and yes we have class in the US along with racism. Having a linkage to racism means it also has loads of difficulties in trying to fix things just like bigotry has. The TV show "Dear White People" does a very good job of outlining some of the difficulties and many of them are shared between the two. I also suggest that TV show.
Having those two things tied together means that very rich folks can just have one group fight another group while they get away with loads of things.
It goes well beyond just that point to many others that using the model and they all fit pretty well to describe what we are seeing in the US.
A model for developing countries is fitting the US, a developed country. Think about that for a second or two.
It's a good, well-written book. I definitely suggest folks pick it up and read it.
Two major forces, class and race ( "class segregation" and "racecraft" as he calls it) explain how it happened, and the Investment Theory of Politics wraps up the argument. Today the United States is fast becoming a plutocracy in the hands of the finance and tech sector and it is truly a grim prospect. The lights of the "city on the hill" are going out!
A must read, highly recommended. Take a close look at the solutions Temin proposes - they make a lot of sense to me, but I fear that many are not politically viable...I have left a question on Goodreads and hope many of you will want to go over there to answer and enter the debate.