Anxiety about the divide between rich and poor was on the rise ever so briefly last year when the new federal tax cut was proposed by President Bush and approved by the U.S. Congress. But class angst doesn’t run deep in the United States, except at a few dinner parties among the aging faculty at the University of Michigan, Wisconsin or Santa Cruz or at wine-filled liberal gatherings in the hot springs of Santa Fe, N.M.
Author Gore Vidal captured why the political noise level is so low on such subjects in his new book “Inventing a Nation,” a light historical account of the personal travails of George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Playing bumper pool with his topics, at one point Vidal bounced around to modern-day England where he described how the labor party lost its political soul, as diagnosed by Tony Blair.
“A traditional old-line party like Labour was not possible when over 60 percent of the electorate considers itself, rightly or wrongly, middle class,” explained Blair.
Home ownership in America has become our “caste-away” equalizer, giving two-thirds of the population a definable stake in American soil, and a vested, deeply coveted equity gene in the nation’s economic and political DNA.
Does this explain the fate of the American Democrats, the party of the dis-enfranchised, the immigrant, the laborer and the tenant? Their profile doesn’t fit with that of today’s monied homeowner, even though the famous democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt should share some credit for creating the American home ownership class.
In the last 10 years, home ownership equity gains have amounted to an estimated $3 trillion, distancing the average homeowner economically from the struggles of the struggling class. This newly landed gentry sits atop the heap, not among it. These masters of the suburban range with their muscular houses on specs of property saddle up their SUVs and rule the ‘burbs and America.