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fanuzzir
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What part of The Jungle can help us today?

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As a post-mortem on Sinclair's novel, why don't we take a stab at identifying what part his novel's message resonantes with us today, or choosing what was most successful and/or timeless? What do people need to hear that this novel still says?

Message Edited by fanuzzir on 01-26-200709:42 PM

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vivico1
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?


fanuzzir wrote:
As a post-mortem on Sinclair's novel, why don't we take a stab at identifying what part his novel's message resonantes with us today, or choosing what was most successful and/or timeless? What do people need to hear that this novel still says?

Message Edited by fanuzzir on 01-26-200709:42 PM




I will mention some stats I got in an email from a friend today. It listed over 50 different taxes that we pay today (just to mention a few) and said this: "COMMENTS: Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids. What happened?"

Also as was mentioned on a talk show today,"given the minimum wage today,with increase, that still puts all workers on minimum wage only with a family, under the poverty line."

We still are not taking care of our workers, to let them make just a moderate living for their families. There are still safety issues today, some very new as new types of jobs come along, some old. We farm out our slave labor now to other countries because we have SOME laws to protect the American worker now that just wont allow some practices. The middle class in America is disappearing and really this was the American dream of standard of living, not something like Donald Trump, just what a nice middle class family would expect. This is creating more of a rich upper class and the lower poverty level. No in between.

Sinclairs book is as relevant today as it was then about both things really, the quality of merchandise put out and its affect on us AND the damage we do to workers and need to help the working man, bring the upper and lower classes more into balance as that "middle class average" that keeps us more equal.

Is socialism a viable party against the two party system of democrats and republicans? I dont know, people today still dont want to hear that term used as a party but we do like many of the ideas of it. And we do incorporate and have incorporated many of them.

There is still a lot of work to do, whatever the system. But Sinclairs glaring view of the mainline workers of america and big businesses privilages versus what should be their duty to the workers and us, is still there today.
There have been lots of very good changes, many thanks to his eye opener, but we have a long ways to go. Thing is, do people want it enough to demand it, or have we all become too complacent.
Vivian
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batwoman
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?

I'd like to stick a knife in corporate imbalance power that continues today. The Jungle still resonates with me because of the chokehold corporations continue to hold upon our democracy. The meat trust lives on in the form of the Big Food lobby, companies like Phillip Morris who continue to lobby for unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and trans fats. It strikes me as interesting that in the UK and Canada, trans fats are banned in foods, but for some reason in the US, they are still allowed to be used.

Another enduring issue is that of living wages and unions. In Arizona it took a ballot initiative to get our minimum wage increased, and it was the big and small business owners who were opposed to it. We are also a right-to-work state, so unions are not pervasive, but I am surprised at the negative rhetoric aimed at unions. Where did that come from? How did unions become something to be distrusted?

The Jungle reveals the insidious triumph of profit over human well-being that seemed to threaten our democracy more so before the midterm elections. I think that when people have had enough of being treated like hogs, they will fight back. Yes, we still need to read this novel. It reminds us that certain powers need to be checked.





fanuzzir wrote:
As a post-mortem on Sinclair's novel, why don't we take a stab at identifying what part his novel's message resonantes with us today, or choosing what was most successful and/or timeless? What do people need to hear that this novel still says?

Message Edited by fanuzzir on 01-26-200709:42 PM




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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?

Well said, batwoman.

It would seem to me that Socialism and Capitalism are the two poles of a ying-yang relationship in economics. Neither of them can stand alone in a healthy society. Laissez-faire Capitalism ostensibly leads to the opression of the poor, as countless examples throughout history demonstrate, while Socialism run amok leads to exactly the same thing: the wealthy and powerful "State" taking everything away from the workers. I believe the two ideals must work in tandem for either one of them to succeed.

One can forgive Sinclair's propogandist tendencies when one realizes the economic and social context within in which he wrote. Faced with the horrible abuses perpetrated by the company bosses, he longs to have the pendulum swing entirely in the opposite direction. I would have it swing somewhere around the middle.
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?


zman wrote:
Well said, batwoman.

It would seem to me that Socialism and Capitalism are the two poles of a ying-yang relationship in economics. Neither of them can stand alone in a healthy society. Laissez-faire Capitalism ostensibly leads to the opression of the poor, as countless examples throughout history demonstrate, while Socialism run amok leads to exactly the same thing: the wealthy and powerful "State" taking everything away from the workers. I believe the two ideals must work in tandem for either one of them to succeed.

One can forgive Sinclair's propogandist tendencies when one realizes the economic and social context within in which he wrote. Faced with the horrible abuses perpetrated by the company bosses, he longs to have the pendulum swing entirely in the opposite direction. I would have it swing somewhere around the middle.




I agree with you. I think the answer is in a combination of the best of both political ideals, as you say, somewhere in the middle. Neither do stand alone well, at their extremes especially.
Vivian
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zman
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?

Some of my ancestors were enticed to emigrate to the United States from the Ukraine a generation before the writing of "The Jungle". Their stories share a great many similarities to Jurgis' story, and that's one of the reasons I found the book fascinating. However, the history of my ancestors contains as much triumph as it does heartache, and that's where the similarities end.

Sinclair is obviously using the device of caricature in the case of Jurgis - a worst case scenario, if you will. Most of us don't live lives of utter and complete tragedy, and yet, lives of utter and complete tragedy DO occur. The value of "The Jungle" today might be to remind us all that WE are the ones that cause others suffering, and only WE can alleviate it.
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fanuzzir
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?



batwoman wrote:
I'd like to stick a knife in corporate imbalance power that continues today. The Jungle still resonates with me because of the chokehold corporations continue to hold upon our democracy. The meat trust lives on in the form of the Big Food lobby, companies like Phillip Morris who continue to lobby for unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and trans fats. It strikes me as interesting that in the UK and Canada, trans fats are banned in foods, but for some reason in the US, they are still allowed to be used.

Another enduring issue is that of living wages and unions. In Arizona it took a ballot initiative to get our minimum wage increased, and it was the big and small business owners who were opposed to it. We are also a right-to-work state, so unions are not pervasive, but I am surprised at the negative rhetoric aimed at unions. Where did that come from? How did unions become something to be distrusted?

The Jungle reveals the insidious triumph of profit over human well-being that seemed to threaten our democracy more so before the midterm elections. I think that when people have had enough of being treated like hogs, they will fight back. Yes, we still need to read this novel. It reminds us that certain powers need to be checked.






This is a superb defense of this novel, especially your point about corporate control: we know it controls healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and energy, but now we know it also controls food, and therefore us. So Sinclair was going after the corporate system where it had its most power. Welcome to the board, and to ongoing discussion.
Bob
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fanuzzir
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?



zman wrote:
Some of my ancestors were enticed to emigrate to the United States from the Ukraine a generation before the writing of "The Jungle". Their stories share a great many similarities to Jurgis' story, and that's one of the reasons I found the book fascinating. However, the history of my ancestors contains as much triumph as it does heartache, and that's where the similarities end.

Sinclair is obviously using the device of caricature in the case of Jurgis - a worst case scenario, if you will. Most of us don't live lives of utter and complete tragedy, and yet, lives of utter and complete tragedy DO occur. The value of "The Jungle" today might be to remind us all that WE are the ones that cause others suffering, and only WE can alleviate it.




This is a fascinating reminder that immigrants to the United States did prosper, despite the best efforts of the factory system. I'm wondering if your ancestors had a trade, as did mine (carpentry and bricklaying); and union membership, as did mine. That's something that today's immigrants will never know. Im so glad this novel had a personal relevance for you and hope you continue to add your viewpoint and experience.
Bob
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zman
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?

Hi Bob, thanks for your interest.

My ancestors did not, in fact, have any kind of trade. They were subsistence-level farmers that were enticed into coming to the United States by corporate agents promising them the American Dream. In their case, however, it actually worked out after a few generations. They were textile/garment workers in New York that somehow managed to save enough money to eventually open a restaurant. My great grandmother's oldest daughter (would that make her my grand aunt?) married a middle class American, and combined resources to the point where her great grand children (my grand cousins?) now own a number of upscale restaurants in several New York boroughs.

This one success story, however, does not diminish the message of "The Jungle", but since you went and wondered about my personal details, you have to suffer the consequence of being bored by them.
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?



fanuzzir wrote:
As a post-mortem on Sinclair's novel, why don't we take a stab at identifying what part his novel's message resonantes with us today, or choosing what was most successful and/or timeless? What do people need to hear that this novel still says?

Message Edited by fanuzzir on 01-26-200709:42 PM






I am a proud capitalist so I do not share many of Sinclair's views. However the book is a warning of what can happen when power of a corporation is unchecked. It is also a warning of what can happen if the government becomes very corrupt. In addition, while I believe capitalism can lead to the greatest economic prosperity and benefit everyone there is still too much disparity in pay. I am mainly referring to extreme pay packages of corporate CEOs, especially those who do not even perform. While I understand that companies will fail under capitalism and also need to downsize form time to time I believe that the workers could be treated with more respect and be given more support as they make the change. Sinclair's point about dangers of corporate power are a good reminder to these risks.

I want to bring up one point Sinclair made near the end. He said that if one country became Socialist then other countries would not be able to keep a capitalist system. I think the opposite is right. One of the objectives he had for Socialism would be to raise worker's salaries. While this is a noble wish, I believe , for example,if Korea adopted a Socialist system and wages rose relative to other Asian countries than their production would shift to other Asian countries rather than the tide of capitalism in Asia switch to a similar Socialist system as Korea.

My last point is I did add to my limited understanding of Socialism not only through Sinclair but also through the posts of Choisya and Vivico. Thank you both. I hope to see you in other book discussions.
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?

Thanks Paulk,
I thought I might try a novel with an author in on the discussion for a change after such a heavy book. That plus I really didnt see anything of interest to me in what you might call "liberal arts" type of books this month. You said something about keeping up in this class, or someone did, forgive me if it was not you. Well, i bought the novel and started it since it starts next week, and now am seeing posts and it seems nearly every person in there has already read the book! They want to start discussion the whole thing now! or Feb 5 for sure. I even posted, I dont think i will have it read by then should i? They said you probably should but will try to have some headings to help prevent the spoiler effect. MAN talk about a place you dont want the ending.. a novel?? Soooo, I may just go off and read this one at my own pace and if there are people discussing it when i am through fine, if not, I give up. So may not see you in some of the other clubs for some time if at all , but was nice to meet you in here and see your posts also. Good luck with your next book.:smileyhappy: Do you know what you are going to read?

Paulk wrote:

.....My last point is I did add to my limited understanding of Socialism not only through Sinclair but also through the posts of Choisya and Vivico. Thank you both. I hope to see you in other book discussions.
Vivian
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Everyman
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?



vivico1 wrote:
You said something about keeping up in this class, or someone did, forgive me if it was not you. Well, i bought the novel and started it since it starts next week, and now am seeing posts and it seems nearly every person in there has already read the book! They want to start discussion the whole thing now! or Feb 5 for sure. I even posted, I dont think i will have it read by then should i? They said you probably should but will try to have some headings to help prevent the spoiler effect. MAN talk about a place you dont want the ending.


This conflict between those who have read these books before and those who are reading them for the first time(or who have seen the movie and know the plot and how it comes out) is a long-standing one, and there really is no easy solution. One could try to pick books that few people here have read, but those generally aren't the best books for reading or discussion. (If you ever go read The Mysteries of Udolpho, for example, you will see why it's not all that popular a book today even though it was all the rage when written, would have topped the NYT Best Seller list had such existed then. )

Most of the experienced BN posters, and certainly the moderators, are very sensitive to this situation and try hard to make the discussions interesting both for first time readers and for those revisiting the books. It's not perfect, but do give the discussion a try. The insights of people coming to a book for the first time are often very valuable; they see things that people who have read the book before may skim over. And it's certainly true that the more different viewpoints, the better.
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?



vivico1 wrote:
Thanks Paulk,
I thought I might try a novel with an author in on the discussion for a change after such a heavy book. That plus I really didnt see anything of interest to me in what you might call "liberal arts" type of books this month. You said something about keeping up in this class, or someone did, forgive me if it was not you. Well, i bought the novel and started it since it starts next week, and now am seeing posts and it seems nearly every person in there has already read the book! They want to start discussion the whole thing now! or Feb 5 for sure. I even posted, I dont think i will have it read by then should i? They said you probably should but will try to have some headings to help prevent the spoiler effect. MAN talk about a place you dont want the ending.. a novel?? Soooo, I may just go off and read this one at my own pace and if there are people discussing it when i am through fine, if not, I give up. So may not see you in some of the other clubs for some time if at all , but was nice to meet you in here and see your posts also. Good luck with your next book.:smileyhappy: Do you know what you are going to read?

Paulk wrote:

.....My last point is I did add to my limited understanding of Socialism not only through Sinclair but also through the posts of Choisya and Vivico. Thank you both. I hope to see you in other book discussions.




If I can read a significant part of the book prior to the start date I feel I can jump in before the conversation runs away from me. By a significant amount I mean at least a third of the book and probably more. Next month I will definitely join The Good Soldier because it is new to me. There are several others I have interest in and will go to B&N tomorrow and look them over. Reading Like a Writer looks interesting. I would like to do Shakespeare but I think a lot of people who are very knowledgeable about him will take the conversation forward faster than I would be comfortable. I thought the book on Hershey looked good but that is because there is a picture of a Hershey Bar on the cover and I am on a diet and that candy bar looks realy good.
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?

Darn, I should have looked at the one on Hershey better, I just saw it listed under "our cooking club" section and thought it was on cooking with chocolate (lot of those out there now) instead of a biography! I would do much better with a bio than this novel that is ok, but frankly already I am wondering why people have it read in two days. But I have spent my book money for feb now, so guess i am stuck right now :smileysad: . After you mentioning it, I went back again and read the synopsis that it was a bio. I havent looked at any book under a cooking and dining bookclub label :smileysad: . Well live and learn huh. That would be a great section heading tho...biographies! The Shakespeare one, even tho the book has what it says is modern language next to the original to help out all levels of readers of shakespeare, my fear is the same as yours on that so didnt go there. And I thought bout the Good Soldier too but it sounded good but very depressing too and after this book, didnt need another one of those. Normally, that wouldnt bother me, I like good meaty books, as it were. Thats why I am not much for just straight novels but it was listed under classics too and thats why i looked at it. I wound up with the novel, the Memory Keeper's daughter, about a doctor delivery his own twins in the winter in the 60s and one had down's so he sends her away and tells the wife she is dead (no spoiler, just synopsis) and it sounded interesting so thought, ok I will go here. I would join you in The Good Soldier if i had some more money for Feb, but even so, I think thats going to turn into (or is) a big political debate again and I just dont want it. I really didnt realise all classics were so political. Anyway, good luck with that and send me a message sometime or something and let me know how it is. :smileyhappy:

Paulk wrote:
Next month I will definitely join The Good Soldier because it is new to me. There are several others I have interest in and will go to B&N tomorrow and look them over. Reading Like a Writer looks interesting. I would like to do Shakespeare but I think a lot of people who are very knowledgeable about him will take the conversation forward faster than I would be comfortable. I thought the book on Hershey looked good but that is because there is a picture of a Hershey Bar on the cover and I am on a diet and that candy bar looks realy good.
Vivian
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PaulK
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?



vivico1 wrote:
Darn, I should have looked at the one on Hershey better, I just saw it listed under "our cooking club" section and thought it was on cooking with chocolate (lot of those out there now) instead of a biography! I would do much better with a bio than this novel that is ok, but frankly already I am wondering why people have it read in two days. But I have spent my book money for feb now, so guess i am stuck right now :smileysad: . After you mentioning it, I went back again and read the synopsis that it was a bio. I havent looked at any book under a cooking and dining bookclub label :smileysad: . Well live and learn huh. That would be a great section heading tho...biographies! The Shakespeare one, even tho the book has what it says is modern language next to the original to help out all levels of readers of shakespeare, my fear is the same as yours on that so didnt go there. And I thought bout the Good Soldier too but it sounded good but very depressing too and after this book, didnt need another one of those. Normally, that wouldnt bother me, I like good meaty books, as it were. Thats why I am not much for just straight novels but it was listed under classics too and thats why i looked at it. I wound up with the novel, the Memory Keeper's daughter, about a doctor delivery his own twins in the winter in the 60s and one had down's so he sends her away and tells the wife she is dead (no spoiler, just synopsis) and it sounded interesting so thought, ok I will go here. I would join you in The Good Soldier if i had some more money for Feb, but even so, I think thats going to turn into (or is) a big political debate again and I just dont want it. I really didnt realise all classics were so political. Anyway, good luck with that and send me a message sometime or something and let me know how it is. :smileyhappy:

Paulk wrote:
Next month I will definitely join The Good Soldier because it is new to me. There are several others I have interest in and will go to B&N tomorrow and look them over. Reading Like a Writer looks interesting. I would like to do Shakespeare but I think a lot of people who are very knowledgeable about him will take the conversation forward faster than I would be comfortable. I thought the book on Hershey looked good but that is because there is a picture of a Hershey Bar on the cover and I am on a diet and that candy bar looks realy good.




I too would have liked something happier or lighter after The Jungle and Moby Dick. Hemingway may be interesting and since they are short stories it may be easy to drop in to only those stories that appeal. It is funny to see a biography under the food book club. Julia Child maybe but a business man? I live 90 minutes from Hershey PA and pass through that area often so I have an interest. I doubt the club will be very very attended which may be good. However I tried a few posts in You On a Diet but that group never really got going so too few people is more of a problem than too many.
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batwoman
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?

I can see your point, zman. But I still sympathize with "the little guy," and if that means more social programs and power given to the state, then I would condone that imbalance as well. My yin and yang circle might be a little lop-sided, but that is where I am at right now regarding the skewed power imbalance in our nation.
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zman
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?

I sympathize with "the little guy" myself, being one of them. However, I have to point out that The State is made up of human beings that are every bit as prone to the temptations of greed and avarice as anyone else.

My general definition of Socialism is perhaps a bit broader than most: I see it as a redistribution of wealth by taxation for the betterment of society. By that definition, all kinds of things become socialistic: the maintainence of roads, schools, hospitals, welfare relief, public works projects, the funding of the military, the support of regulatory agencies, etc.

"Socialism" has become a four letter word to many because it's become specifically associated with the mismanagement and fraud found so often in the welfare system. People certainly have a right to be chagrined at that kind of abuse. I can give you another example from my home town of Boston: The Big Dig. Here's a public works project that went billions of dollars over budget, and was and still is fraught with nepotism between politicians and contracters. And then some of the work was so shoddy that it ended up killing someone!

All that being said, I'm definitely in favor of good social programs as long as they're well-regulated and responsibly administered, and it worries me that the middle class in America is slowly shrinking. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer, and that doesn't bode well for a healthy society. But that's a complicated equation, and I'm not an economist.
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fanuzzir
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?

Oh so you mean that the taxation of private wealth provides public dividends in the form of roads, schools, etc. Yes, that is socialism (I thought you meant give right to the poor in the other post).

Many wise political, eminently practical positions are articulated here.
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fanuzzir
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?



zman wrote:
I'm definitely in favor of good social programs as long as they're well-regulated and responsibly administered, and it worries me that the middle class in America is slowly shrinking. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer, and that doesn't bode well for a healthy society. But that's a complicated equation, and I'm not an economist.




One of my favorite books is "America What Went Wrong," and it shows that the individual's share of the federal tax burden has increased exponentially since the 1950s, and that corporations' burden has shrank by just as much. Enough said.
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batwoman
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Re: What part of The Jungle can help us today?



zman wrote:
I sympathize with "the little guy" myself, being one of them. However, I have to point out that The State is made up of human beings that are every bit as prone to the temptations of greed and avarice as anyone else.

My general definition of Socialism is perhaps a bit broader than most: I see it as a redistribution of wealth by taxation for the betterment of society. By that definition, all kinds of things become socialistic: the maintainence of roads, schools, hospitals, welfare relief, public works projects, the funding of the military, the support of regulatory agencies, etc.

"Socialism" has become a four letter word to many because it's become specifically associated with the mismanagement and fraud found so often in the welfare system. People certainly have a right to be chagrined at that kind of abuse. I can give you another example from my home town of Boston: The Big Dig. Here's a public works project that went billions of dollars over budget, and was and still is fraught with nepotism between politicians and contracters. And then some of the work was so shoddy that it ended up killing someone!

All that being said, I'm definitely in favor of good social programs as long as they're well-regulated and responsibly administered, and it worries me that the middle class in America is slowly shrinking. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer, and that doesn't bode well for a healthy society. But that's a complicated equation, and I'm not an economist.




Hmmm. This is interesting. I like that you are not being black and white about socialism but address the shades of grey--and there is a LOT of grey. I would like to see more accountability with tax money, too.

About the shrinking middle class: I read an article--and this relates to The Jungle and the inablity to achieve the American Dream--that stated that it will take the new immigrant family TEN generations to rise to the withering ranks of the "middle class." That's a huge increase from the 3 generations that it took new immigrants to rise to middle class back at the turn of the century. Shouldn't it be getting easier instead of harder to make it in this country?
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