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The 2006 mid-term election provides an opportunity I lately despaired of ever seeing again in this country: the opportunity to talk about class in America. We have been going in a direction that stratifies class structure. This trend perverts the American dream, which was envisioned to allow everyone equal access to personal success.
Universal health insurance, for instance, is a major class issue. Our system needs an overhaul. Nurses (the frontline of defense in our healthcare system) at Brigham and Women's Hospital are prepared to strike over dangerously low staffing levels and grueling working conditions. Healthcare costs yoke many working class Americans into dead-end, low-paying jobs they loathe because they cannot otherwise afford medical and dental care for themselves, their spouses, or their children. Many of these people have one or more college degrees! Meanwhile, pharmaceutical company profits are in the tens of billions.
Traditionally, education has been seen as the way OUT of the working class, not into it. That isn't true anymore in the current class/power structure. Without the benefit of formal research on this topic, my experiences, and those of many others around me, have led me to believe that irresponsible legislative policy and a lack of compassionate domestic leadership within the current public/private sector structure is creating a new class of working poor-the overeducated, working poor.
If you have a good union and perform skilled labor for a large and profitable corporation, you are likely to make a lot more money than a teacher, a writer, a counselor, a community activist, many nurses, and almost every working artist-and advanced higher education is expected of candidates for entry-level jobs in those fields.
When you add the debt of rising college costs to the need for healthcare, housing, and food, this financial trap forms a pattern that yet again feeds into the same class system in which the rich get richer and the poor never get anywhere. The only way to have a classless society is one in which every citizen pays taxes, serves in the armed forces and/or civil services, and is guaranteed by the government with the practical institutions that support the "unalienable rights" which our country is supposedly founded upon-life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (It says "happiness," not property. That came later.)
Those institutions include verifiable voting, clean air & water, healthcare, housing, food, top-notch public education, access to green wild spaces, marriage equality, birth control/reproductive rights, and job opportunities.