Rolling Stone pundit Matt Taibbi writes that the media are missing the real story: that millions of Americans are financially drowning under home heating costs, gas prices and debt, and the middle class is disappearing.
Taibbi reports on a letter-writing campaign initiated by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who asked his constituents to tell their stories of how difficult their lives had become. Hundreds of letters arrived, describing formerly comfortable middle-class families who avoid driving to church to save gas, are forced to burn their furniture to keep warm, or eat cereal and toast for supper. He concludes that politics are no longer about false red state-blue state debates, but about life and death:
"[T]imes are tougher economically in this country than perhaps they've been for quite a long time...Our economic reality is as brutal as it is for a simple reason: whether we like it or not, we are in the midst of revolutionary economic changes.
Now we have a new set of dire problems in the areas of home ownership and exploding energy prices. In both of these matters the basic dynamic is transnational companies raiding the cash savings of the middle class. Because those same companies finance the campaigns of our politicians, we won't hear much talk about getting private industry to help foot the bill to pay for these crises, or forcing the energy companies to cut into their obscene profits for the public good. We will, however, hear talk about taxpayer-subsidized bailouts and various irrelevancies like McCain's gas tax holiday.
We have officially spent and mismanaged our way out of la-la land and back to the ugly place where politics really lives -- a depressingly serious and desperate argument about how to keep large numbers of us from starving and freezing to death. Or losing our homes, or having our cars repossessed. For a long time America has been too embarrassed to talk about class; we all liked to imagine ourselves in the wealthy column. The reality is much different, and this might be the year we're all forced to admit it."