In The Matrix, Neo (Keanu Reeves) discovers that the world he thought he was living in was merely an illusion, a computer-generated program designed to keep him docile and to be, in effect, a D-Cell battery. I’ve long held that The Matrix is a brilliant example of political cinema. The use of information technology & media to suppress dissent has been the driving force in our political system for many years now, though the process has accelerated significantly since 9/11. While we’re not physically connected to The Matrix as Neo was, a large portion of the population is glued to the massive right-wing disinformation system to the exclusion of all other information sources. They are, in effect, connected to The Matrix.
One of the most important illusions the Powers That Be™ must maintain is the belief that America is a meritocracy and that anyone, no matter how lowly or economically challenged can rise to at least the middle-class if not the upper-class. Following the Second World War with the growth of industrial unionization and the greater collaboration between management and labor, we had that. Citizens with a high-school diploma could get a decent job in a factory, join a union, put money away for retirement and expect to live a pretty good life. Shared prosperity was not a dirty word.
Over the last 30 years, we have hollowed out this model so that now, America offers her citizens less economic mobility that we saw in Europe in the 19th century. Citizens with college degrees cannot find work and if they do, it’s for less than their parents made. Wages are stagnant for all but the wealthiest citizens. Poor people stay poor, their children and grandchildren stay poor. Poverty is intragenerational now. The rich stay rich and the middle-class are on a downward trajectory towards greater poverty.
Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz argues that the inequality gap in America has become so great that the chances of those at the bottom making it to the middle or upper-class are bleak. He is joined by Marxian economist Richard Wolff to discuss the plight of the non-wealthy in America.