This week for our American Politics media sessions we have been looking at a quite fascinating article about industrial decline in the USA. This tells us a lot about where power lies in America and is a useful basis for considering the extent to which America does really live up to the ideals it proclaims to stand for.
In considering the state of democracy in the USA it is useful to consider who controls economic and political power and whether this group is really any different from the one that dominated during the foundation of the country in the late eighteenth century.
I would say that there is a strong argument to suggest that a wealthy, white, male property owning and professional class forms an elite grouping in modern America to a large extent and that this is really no different from the conditions that operated at the Philadelphia convention.
Yes there have been advance by minority groups, but not to the degree which would suggest an even distribution of power. Blacks and women, for instance have made great strides, witness the development of a black middle class, and how female students now outnumber and outscore their male counterparts at university. But the proportion of people from these groups far outnumbers the number of places they occupy at the top table. That there are no elected African Americans in the US Senate is a far more accurate measure of the levels of political equality achieved by black people than Obama’s presidential success.
And there is the issue of class. In the article consider what has happened to median earnings over the past 30 years, and what help the federal government have provided for the millions of new unemployed and juxtapose this with the assistance given to Wall Street.
Ultimately power is dispersed more evenly in modern America than has historically been the case, but only if we discount the effect of the superelite. What does that say about America and the tools and processes available for citizens to change things?