Thursday, November 11, 2021

The New Peasantry

It’s time for another installment in our series on the deterioration of our state-of-birth, California. Once again our chronicler is Victor Davis Hanson who lives there and continues to ‘sing’ its elegy, this time in Deseret News. His point is that, in CA and places like it, the middle class can hardly exist.
The result is the emergence of a new American peasantry, of millions of Americans who own little or no property. The new majority has scant, if any, savings. Fifty-eight percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in the bank. A missed paycheck renders them destitute, completely unable to service sizable debt. Most of what they buy, from cars to electronic appurtenances, they charge on credit cards. The credit card indebtedness is over $8,000 per household and over $2,000 per individual — paid through monthly installments at average annual interest rates of between 15% and 19%, at a time when most home mortgages are usually below 4%.

Such short-term debt is often roughly commensurate with the payments and share- cropping arrangements that premodern peasants once entered into with lords and made it impossible for the serf to exercise political independence or hope for upward mobility.

A fifth of America receives direct government public assistance. Well over half the country depends on some sort of state subsidy or government transfer money, explaining why about 60% of Americans collect more payments from the government than they pay out in federal income taxes.

What remains of a CA middle class is largely government employees, the latter-day equivalent of the overseer class in a plantation economy. They are teachers and prison guards, firefighters and tax collectors, game wardens and bureaucrats, welfare workers and utility technicians. Their jobs are secure, some can actually buy homes. It certainly isn’t the life our founders envisioned for us.