Death of America’s Common Man

Modern America’s obsession with self and success has killed off what once was an honorable American archetype, the Common Man, who was the nation’s backbone for generations, writes Michael Brenner.

By Michael Brenner

America’s Common Man exists no more – gone and forgotten. Once he was lauded as the salt of the earth – our country’s embodiment of what made us special, of what made the great democratic experiment successful, of what made of the United States the magnetic pole for the world’s masses.

Politicians paid their rhetorical respects, poets exalted him in paeans of praise, Aaron Copland composed a “Fanfare for the Common Man” suite. It was an honorable term, an affective shorthand for the Working Man, the Artisan and the Shopkeeper, the clerk. All now passed from our language and from our consciousness. Instead, we are offered the “hard working middle class people who pay their taxes, obey the law and worry about their children’s future.” The linguistic dross of the hackneyed stump speech.

Loss of the Common Man is not due to progressive economic realities and a naturally evolving political culture. More educated Americans are caught in the grip of long-term stagnation than ever before, they have less likelihood of social mobility than ever before, more have every reasonable expectation that their children will be worse off than they are, more are politically marginalized by a party system that serves up a restricted menu of options which effectively disenfranchises 25 percent or so of voters.

The Common Man has lost the attention as well as the concern of the country’s elites. He has been marginalized in every respect but one – he is sovereign audience for a pop culture that provides a heady brew of distractions. In that realm of fantasy, he reigns supreme while the serious action which shapes his life takes place elsewhere.

Today, to call a person common is an insult, just as we have degraded the term working class. The connotations are heavily pejorative – they’re failures, they’re losers, they had the American Dream within reach but lacked the will and the spirit to grab it. It is natural, and just, that they should live out their lives on scant rations. It’s their own fault. This Victorian ethic grounded in Social Darwinism has now been restored as part of the national creed.

Dressing Up Selfishness

Fitted out in the post-modern fancy dress of market fundamentalist economics, Ayn Randish homilies of narcissistic egomania, and a parade of revivalist Christian sects that mix New Age Salvation with balm for anxious egos, this beggar-thy-neighbor ideology dominates our public discourse. It has put on the back foot those who still adhere to the enlightened humanism, which propelled progressive thinking and policy for a century.

Women walking a picket line.

All this is no accident. Powerful interests have orchestrated a relentless campaign for more than 40 years to reconfigure American life in accord with their reactionary aims and principles. This is now obvious to anyone who cares to look. The key questions are: why have so few cared to look, and why the ease with which the crusade has won converts, fellow travelers and the acquiescence of the country’s elites.

The distressing truth of our times is that the Common Man has been abandoned by those elites – in politics, in government, in journalism, in professional associations, in academia. The most cursory monitoring of what they do and say – and, equally, what they don’t do and say – makes that manifestly clear. Personal acquaintance with those elites confirms it. It is a fair generalization that they care little, are preoccupied with their own careers and pastimes, possess only a feeble sense of social obligation, and are smugly complacent.

Money is the common denominator in all of this. But why? These are the people whose material well-being is best protected from the vagaries of a globalized economy, from the predations of big finance and big business. Yes, it is true that they are concerned about preserving their fine houses, sending their children to the top schools, having substantial nest eggs, and enjoying generous health care. Yes, avarice and moral courage are not compatible human traits.

However, none of their comforts is threatened by public policies that conform to the New Deal consensus which most of them at one time shared (or their parents shared). In objective terms, the greatest potential threat to their well-being lurks in the plutocratic structures that control our public affairs, the effects of gross and growing income mal-distribution, and the lurch toward mindless Rightest nostrums by both parties.

Escaping Social Responsibility

We should look elsewhere to explain the wholesale flight from responsibility by America’s elites. Social anthropology offers more insight than does a crude political-economic calculus. At the heart of the matter is status anxiety.

A worker in an automobile assembly plant.

All layers of society struggle with status deprivation or status insecurity. It is most acute among those whose education and ambition have made them ultra-sensitive to insignia of rank and marks of achievement. They can’t live happily without tangible signs of their having a place that honors their efforts and satisfies their pride.

Money is that tangible sign. It always has been in America where inherited class position never was wholly secure and easily uprooted by the winds of a constant social shuffling. Americans always have been consumed by an endless, open-ended status competition. That generates anxiety since there is never enough positive status to go around. Status is a finite commodity as most are destined to find out to their surprise and frustration. Nowadays, people who see themselves as uncommon winners can’t be bothered by the plight of the Common Man.

What has changed to make the contemporary American so anxiously self-absorbed when placed in historical context? Above all, there is the deepening of our narcissistic culture. We are now a society where growing numbers recognize no external communal standard to measure and appraise their conduct – or their worth. The collective superego is shriveled. The self is the only valid pole of reference. That self directs its attention with near exclusivity to its own wants and expectations.

It is almost as if the new categorical imperative is to think of oneself alone whenever and wherever possible. To give priority to any other claim on us is taken as unnatural, i.e. something that has to be justified rather than instinctive or ingrained. The Godfather’s self-serving plaint that “I did it for my family” is widely adopted as the all purpose excuse for selfish acts of malfeasance or non-commission which, in an earlier time, would be felt by many to be irresponsible – if not downright shameless. The axial precept “Let humanity be the ultimate measure of all that we do” was the gyroscope for the enlightened social humanism fostered during the second half of the Twentieth Century. It no longer balances and orients us.

Why Not?

Why then not betray a public trust when doing so (seemingly) advances my political ambitions? Why level with a distressed populace when “America is back!” strikes such a sonorous upbeat note? Why not defer to the latest doomed escalation abroad dear to an incoming President when skepticism endangers funding, access and visibility? Why not avoid critical columns that expose a naked untruth when the entire political class in going along with the convenient myth that Social Security is part of the Treasury’s budget and a cause of the deficit?

One of the elegant rooms at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. (Photo from maralagoclub.com)

Why not trade in my senior government post for a lavish corporate life style since notions of the collective good and of the public trust are subversive of the individual enterprise that makes this country great?; besides, there’s my family’s financial security to think about. Why irritate campaign contributors when pulling your punches supposedly means that your well-intentioned self can be kept in office for another two or six years?

Why not conceal from readers the knowledge of systematic civil liberties violations when not printing the truth may give you access to other truths more fit to print? Why call attention to yourself by teaching the untutored and uninformed of how twisted their nation’s public discourse has become? Why not be an accomplice to torture when doing so opens a spot at the Pentagon trough for the American Psychological Association? Why not hide your head in the sand to avoid the discomfort of resisting the assault on the law if you are an officer of a Bar Association? Why should a law school Dean or senior faculty stick his neck out when the Koch Bros are offering lush funding to establish Law & Economics programs that just happen to promote market fundamentalist principles?

These are the persons who will have to stand up front before the bar of History – because they knew better, should have known better, were expected to know better. …

If I have good reason to sublimate all this, why have I a duty to the Common Man – the ordinary citizen? My status, my rank, do not depend on it. My financial well-being does not dictate it. To pose the question this way is to anticipate the convenient answer.

Yet, we know one thing for certain: When the “common man” dies, the America that the world marveled at for 250 years dies with him.

Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. mbren@pitt.edu

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95 comments for “Death of America’s Common Man

  1. john wilson
    June 27, 2017 at 5:14 am

    The common man probably never existed and if he did and still does, then he is but a slave without chains. These days we call him ‘the public’ and the public are their merely to service the elite of the state and the military. The military have become a ‘race’ in their own right and are no more like the common man or the public than an elephant is like a mouse. The notion that the people are of America or that America is of the people is a delusion and always has been. The American “state in Washington” and its military would just as soon exterminate the ‘common man’ if he posed any challenge to their hegemony as they currently do to other nations around the world.

  2. jfl
    June 27, 2017 at 6:07 am

    how can an article on the ‘common man’ be written without mentioning henry wallace? by a ‘college professor’ nonetheless.

    i was born in 1947 and i’d never heard of henry wallace until i read oilver stone’s book. and he’s still abused by those ‘in the know’ … so who’s contributing to the death of the common man if not the establishment academicians who “don’t even ‘know’ his name”.

    • Bob Van Noy
      June 27, 2017 at 11:51 am

      Really, really, nice citation jfl, thanks…

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_A._Wallace

    • Zachary Smith
      June 29, 2017 at 12:07 am

      Oliver Stone seems to be responsible for the halo fitted on Henry Wallace in recent years. Mr. Stone has – with his movies – done a lot of good education work, but I fear this wasn’t one of them. Abraham Lincoln made a terrible mistake when he put Andrew Johnson on the 1864 ticket as Vice President, and Roosevelt made an equally bad mistake with Henry Wallace. Roosevelt had a chance to correct his error.

      https://libcom.org/files/march-april1947politics.pdf

      That’s an old “hit” piece on Wallace which shows he didn’t always have the halo. I’ve read how Congressional Democrats were afraid of the “cornflake” aspect of his personality. The man was strange – in some ways he was a hard-headed realist and in others he was off in ga-ga land. Realist? He was a very successful businessman, and recognized that Roosevelt was a dying man to the extent that he had already lined up a cabinet for when he became president. On the flip side, he had some mighty weird ideas on “the occult”.

      • DL
        June 30, 2017 at 2:47 am

        America survived Nancy Reagan’s Astrology, Ronnie’s dementia, Nixon’s paranoia and
        GDubya Bush’s blithe attitude towards governance. I think America would have done just fine with a truly caring Henry Wallace as president, despite a few odd habits.

        • lexy677
          June 30, 2017 at 7:06 am

          I understand the spirit of your comment, however I submit to you that America most certainly did not survive Reagan. The election of “GDubya” is a direct consequence of the election of Reagan. Reagan was most certainly the first nail in the coffin of the United States. I understood that when he was elected in 1980 and events are proving me right.

          • Zachary Smith
            June 30, 2017 at 11:19 pm

            I wasn’t so quick on the uptake with Reagan, but eventually figured it out that the man was a disaster. He was never very smart in the first place, and his limited abilities went quickly downhill with his Alzheimer’s. So he was a tool of the wealthy, and the very worst single thing he did (from my viewpoint) was the installation of Alan Greenspan – a disaster for the US which has grown like cancer.

            The US is most definitely a different country than it was before that senile old fool was sworn in. And not for the better.

  3. jfl
    June 27, 2017 at 6:47 am

    The Century of the Common Man henry wallace, 8 may 1942

    Some have spoken of the “American Century”. I say that the century on which we are entering – the century which will come out of this war – can be and must be the century of the common man. Perhaps it will be America’s opportunity to suggest the Freedoms and duties by which the common man must live. Everywhere the common man must learn to build his own industries with his own hands in a practical fashion. Everywhere the common man must learn to increase his productivity so that he and his children can eventually pay to the world community all that they have received. No nation will have the God-given right to exploit other nations. Older nations will have the privilege to help younger nations get started on the path to industrialization but there must be neither military nor economic imperialism. The methods of the nineteenth century will not work in the people’s century which is now about to begin. India, China, and Latin America have a tremendous stake in the people’s century. As their masses learn to read and write, and as they become productive mechanics, their standard of living will double and treble. Modern science, when devoted whole-heartedly to the general welfare, has in it potentialities of which we do not yet dream.

    And modern science must be released from German slavery. International cartels that serve American greed and the German will to power must go. Cartels in the peace to come must be subjected to international control for the common man, as well as being under adequate control by the respective home governments. In this way, we can prevent the Germans from again building a war machine while we sleep. With international monopoly pools under control, it will be possible for inventions to serve all the people instead of only the few.

    Yes, and when the time of peace comes, the citizen will again have a duty, the supreme duty of sacrificing the lesser interest for the greater interest of the general welfare. Those who write the peace must think of the whole world. There can be no privileged peoples. We ourselves in the United States are no more a master race than the Nazis. And we cannot perpetuate economic warfare without planting the seeds of military warfare. We must use our power at the peace table to build an economic peace that is just, charitable and enduring.

    truman was made vp. like trump – or the clintons or bush or obama, for that matter – he was led by the nose by the cia and the stooges of the plutocrats and wall street. when did the common man die? with the new american century? or with the first iteration of same, when henry wallace was neutered and the pliant, manipulable harry truman was steered down that road the first time, for real.

    • Dave P.
      June 27, 2017 at 11:19 am

      jfl: Thank you very much for the post. This message should be sent to every home in U.S.

    • Brad Owen
      June 27, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      Go to Executive Intelligence Review (EIR). Go to their search box. Type in “The Greatest of Roosevelt’s Forgotten Men”. Bet you never heard of him. If Roosevelt could have, he would have hand-picked him as his personal replacement for President. Much was erased from the record upon Roosevelt’s death. This sort of thing has happened to us since 1776. Also type in “Synarchy against America” to see why this is happening to us.

      • June 27, 2017 at 1:37 pm

        You’re right. SINCE 1776 !!!!!!!!

  4. jfl
    June 27, 2017 at 6:50 am

    youtube of wallace’ speech.

  5. jfl
    June 27, 2017 at 7:09 am

    the tone of this article is a reproof to the ‘haves’ … or nowadays the ‘have mores’ as Smirk used to say … or the ‘have much too much’-es, who seem to be the endpoint toward which all the remaining ‘middle class’ seems to aspire today – which is a waste of time. reform/revolution will never come from the ‘haves’. they will always be in reaction, as described here.

    reform/revolution can only come from their victims, the ‘have-nots’. that is the real message of democracy. oligarchy can only bring about injustice and inequality along every measurable dimension.

    democracy – rule by the common man – is not ‘good’ because it is ‘fair’ or ‘equitable’, althoug it is … it is necessary because it is the only way to rein in the excesses of the oligarchs : endless war, ecological devastation, financial ruin …

    • Mild-ly Facetious
      June 27, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Much gratitude for your valuable contribution, jfl.

      • Mild-ly Facetious
        June 27, 2017 at 9:39 am

        I suppose the welcome of former Nazi’s into our CIA after the war was an incredibly deceitful act, in Wallace’s view.

    • June 27, 2017 at 1:54 pm

      In order to topple governments the CIA has used civil unrest within a targeted country. Which is where the economic sanctions come in to play. Deny the country’s merchants, and banks access to the US dollar, the global currency. Without access to the global market, even though they may be wealthy in oil and US dollar reserves, they cannot provide for their citizens and the poor rise up, having nothing left to lose.

      There are approximately 260M Americans within the ages 16-65, and around 126M of those voted last November. In past elections, the trend was for about 66% voter turnout, that is now dropped to 50%(not all Americans 18+ may vote). IMO those 126M Americans are the influential members of society, the police, military, academic professionals, industry and finance professionals, politicians, and those have-nots but a little hope left in them.
      The non-voters are the have-nots who can not vote, will not vote, or have given up hope(this is where that 16% went). In order for “reform/revolution” to occur, this group has to grow, which means that things will get a whole lot worse, before it begins to fall apart, and then American youths will know what a jackboot a la Pinochet looks like. That may not be a distant future, and it will suck.

      • mike k
        June 27, 2017 at 5:22 pm

        The deep state cannot be voted out – they make sure of that. Voting is actually one of their mechanisms to control the masses.

        • June 27, 2017 at 6:43 pm

          Oh for sure, totally agreed!
          I assume that those who vote and believe that their vote can have an influence on policy is decreasing, and that has a-lot to do with the current economic downturns, and the realization that Americans elect from a vetted list of candidates. If that group continues to grow, more drastic measures will be taken by the state to control the hungry masses.
          If TPTB wish to remain, they must keep the people docile and obedient. They must bring prosperity and control what people hear and see. The internet takes away some control from what people hear and see, but losing dominance on the global market would lead the deep state to censoring the net openly but legally. If that does not work, arresting and disappearing those who lead dissent.
          What I am saying is that this is not “a distant future, and it will suck.”

      • June 27, 2017 at 8:45 pm

        In Syria manufacturers cannot obtain parts needed for production due to USA imposed sanctions and must lay off workers who then join terrorists groups to obtain incomes.

        • Brad Owen
          June 28, 2017 at 12:06 pm

          Funny. The de-industrialization of America had the same effect on our young men, who had to sign up for military service if they wanted a ticket outta trailer-trashville…to go fight those terrorists conveniently produced for them to fight…to the great profit of the MIIC.

          • Brad Owen
            June 28, 2017 at 12:12 pm

            I wonder if the combatants ever have these kinda thoughts? China offers to build them infrastructure factories that all the combatants can work in, and be well-paid in the process, to the great support of their families and communities, all without shooting anybody.

  6. Kalen
    June 27, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Why common man is dead? Among other because commons are dead, legal economic, cultural, social commons are dead. Society is dead and remaining “communities” are dying.

    What’s happening? Do you really want to know?

    What’s happening in the world is unleashed radical state capitalist revolution exactly as Marx was describing in his writings, sans iPhones of course. Marx called for socialism as a matter of stopping destructive tsunami of unfettered capitalism after he revealed brutal, insane bourgeoisie revolution that developed in front of his eyes and performs its final deed of eradication of human race in front our eyes.

    Who could be more relevant than Marx today when random peak from a page of his “Capital” reads like yesterday’s newspaper i.e. moral decay, economic collapse, massive theft and lust for power while working people are suffering.

    What’s next since this state capitalist system is collapsing in a genocidal way and we are the victims of this collapse?.

    There were there major ideas among leftist activists, politicians and philosophers to the question of what to do with the collapsing capitalism as a sociopolitical system supported by system of moral values of liberalism.

    1. Rescue it, and reverse the structure of power into dictatorship of democratic majority, namely proletariat as advocated by Lenin & Trotsky via their violent revolution theory.

    2. Abolish it, removing any concentrated power center strong enough to possibly threaten individual freedom and local social self-governance, a position of anarchists like Goldman or Bakhunin achieved needs be, via, violent rebellion against concentrated capital and power structures that supports it.

    3. Let it collapse, while building enclaves new system of governance from the scratch based of newly acquired socialist and later communist social conscientiousness of members of self-sustained community that joined it voluntarily as a over all better alternative to capitalism. A most theoretically researched and sound view represented by Luxemburg and Liebknecht on truly post-capitalistic social structures, in contrast to first two ideas this one having strong foundation in Marx writings as well.

    Are we gonna save the capitalism from destroying itself again and pay for it or we let it collapse?

    • mike k
      June 27, 2017 at 5:25 pm

      What can we do? Good question.

      • NormanB
        July 1, 2017 at 11:36 pm

        We can abolish the Federal Reserve for starters, the thread that rules us all.

  7. Mild-ly Facetious
    June 27, 2017 at 9:35 am

    BBC | The Century of the Self | Happiness Machines | Season 1 Episode 1 2002 – 58 min. Director: Adam Curtis
    (find on youtube)

    Synopsis:
    Adam Curtis’ acclaimed series examines the rise of the all-consuming self against the backdrop of the Freud dynasty.

    To many in both politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? “Century of the Self” tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

    The Freud dynasty is at the heart of this compelling social history. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis; Edward Bernays, who invented public relations; Anna Freud, Sigmund’s devoted daughter; and present-day PR guru and Sigmund’s great grandson, Matthew Freud.

    Sigmund Freud’s work into the bubbling and murky world of the subconscious changed the world. By introducing a technique to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses. Unwittingly, his work served as the precursor to a world full of political spin doctors, marketing moguls, and society’s belief that the pursuit of satisfaction and happiness is man’s ultimate goal.

    Episode One: Happiness Machines

    The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud’s ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn’t need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.

    Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticizing the motorcar. His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.

    It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate today’s world.

    • mike k
      June 27, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      Right on. An important strand in our enslavement.

    • sierra7
      June 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      Led to the documentary, “Manufacturing of Consent” Noam Chomsky….easily googled to utube……

  8. cmack
    June 27, 2017 at 10:00 am

    modern society has caused this. especially with pop media. i was on a path to becoming one of these modern types but i ended up being a throwback thirty years on. i see the last couple of generations to be soft and selfish but there are those that will transcend that and become the common man. many of the children of the immigrants that have watched their parents bust their asses to provide will become the new common man. i’ve met a few.

    don’t worry,

    …..adversity makes men. victor hugo

    • mike k
      June 27, 2017 at 5:29 pm

      I worry. What kind of man does nuclear war make?

  9. Drew Hunkins
    June 27, 2017 at 10:32 am

    In order to get rich in the United States, one must work hard in the womb.

    Be sure to put in long grueling hours while in that womb to make sure you’re born into the right set of parents.

    You have no one to blame but yourself and your slothful behavior while in the womb.

    • mike k
      June 27, 2017 at 5:31 pm

      I didn’t want to leave. Been trying to find my way back ever since. I’m getting closer….

  10. F. G. Sanford
    June 27, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Fragments of poetry straining for words.
    Every tune Copeland wrote sounded the same.
    Hoover and Coward embodied my fears,
    Copeland liked octaves much better than thirds,
    And coke oven habitats sheltered the poor.
    Grandpa’s old Model T under the barn-
    It started right up after thirty some years.
    Rural electric arrived with the war,
    And some of the telephones still had a crank.
    Coal fired Pittsburgh and KDKA
    Played the open harmonics that Aaron preferred-
    No one could doubt the New Deal was to thank.
    The smoke from those mills wasn’t too far away.
    Crisp winter mornings turned coal to perfume,
    Still air in the mountains, and fires were warm,
    The big city sky would be cleaner someday.
    Coal fired stills, a disguise for the scent,
    It seemed an adventure to go to a store
    When people still knew what a corn cob was for,
    Revivalist crackpots advised we repent.
    A cider press still drew an annual crowd,
    Taft-Hartley had not yet dismantled the growth,
    When a man named McCarthy demanded an oath,
    Too many surrendered, few wondered out loud,
    Common men melted with paranoid shame.
    Personhood conquered and jobs went away,
    Music found flat fives and seconds galore,
    Melodies modal brought popular fame.
    Every tune Copeland wrote still sounds the same,
    Each seventh resolves to a mi or a do.
    The crowd still applauds, and appears to be grateful-
    They have to pretend that they’re happy they came.
    I could name the tune, but I fear the response,
    The common man nowadays keeps to himself.
    Affect assumed is now touted as courage,
    A spectrum of gender prevails for the nonce.
    Someday computerized cognitive spanse
    Will achieve what the scientists claim that it can.
    Pandemic dissonant shock will emerge:
    Its answers will shatter delusional trance.
    What will we do when it counters belief,
    When our fairytale scriptures and myths are dissolved,
    And the robots already have taken our jobs,
    Will it come as a jolt or a sigh of relief?
    Back when the phones were equipped with a crank
    And those Pittsburgh coke ovens still sheltered the poor,
    The future seemed likely to offer us more,
    When we still had the New Deal to thank.
    Maybe some reader will find an old barn-
    Parked for posterity there’s a Toyota.
    Gas up the tank and consider the odds-
    If it starts, then I wasted my time on this yarn.

    • Joe Tedesky
      June 27, 2017 at 4:38 pm

      F.G. I love how you worked the Pittsburgh thing in there, as dirty as Pittsburgh once was, I have fond memories of those days when everyone had a job.

      I think it was back in 1979 when I was in a tavern in North side near the H.J. Heinz Plant when I overheard one hell of a conversation. Next to me at the bar were two truck drivers from the Eazor Express Trucking Company, and these two teamsters were buying drinks for this big (I mean very big) ugly guy who was wearing a shark skinned suit, and it turned out this big guy was a business agent for the Teamster Union local. These three guys drank for a while until all of a sudden the big business agent guy slammed his glass down on the bar, the whole bar became silent, and then this business agent said to the two truck drivers from Eazor, ‘so you never came here before to buy me drinks, but now that your afraid the trucking company is going to go out of business (and it did) you come here looking for my help, well let me tell you two something, that actor is going to go into the White House next year, and then God help you because all us will be out of a job once that prick becomes commander and chief’. Sure enough the actor Ronald Reagan went into the White House, and not long after Pittsburgh’s industrial sector pealed apart section by section until it was not the Pittsburgh we had all grown to take for granted.

      I could go on with these kind of stories from those days back in the 80’s, but this story I just told, to me, is an example of how the common man was beat down into becoming the ignored man and woman we all know exist today. I watched my generation of steel workers, and pipe fitters, get laid off and then after a long while absent from a job these trustworthy servants settled for a job paying much, much less.

      Did I mention that most of all of these once proud union workers, and nonunion workers, were military veterans? Did I also take time to tell you how patriotic these people have been all of there American life’s? These people I’m speaking of didn’t ask for much, they just wanted a job that had a future. Yet, this was not to be, because the elite who run this country can’t see these people I’m talking about from their elite ivory towers, and that’s where their concern ends.

      Before I end let me say that America would have been a much different place in the second half of the 20th century had Henry Wallace become president. We need a new generation of Henry Wallace’s.

      • F. G. Sanford
        June 27, 2017 at 5:17 pm

        Thanks, Joe. Hey, I just realized I spelled Copland wrong. My bad. But I never did like his music, I don’t care what all the audiophiles say, He’s like the John Wayne of serious music. Wayne played the same character in three hundred different movies. Copland wrote the same concerto three hundred times. And, I wanted to mention Henry Wallace, but it’s one of those weird things. Poems go where they want to go, not where you want to take them. But Copland got grilled by Joe McCarthy and blacklisted for a while, so I peripherally covered that base. That guy in the bar was right – Reagan screwed a lot of working class people, but most of them still worship the guy. If you check out the right wing-nut media, they’re all of a sudden trying to use language like “lunatic left”, “left liberals”, “violent progressives”, “communist leftwing democrats”, “subversive left”, etc. There IS NO “left” in America anymore. “Left” and “right” used to differentiate between those who favored economic opportunity for the commons as opposed to reactionary defense of the status quo. It started as an economic, not a political concept. Leo Strauss’s mentor would point out that it “rose to the political”. Since about 1905, wealthy people have been scared shitless it could catch on. That’s where the “red menace” terror comes from. So far, they’ve convinced all the poor and unemployed that the “left” is their enemy. In fact, there is no difference between John McCain and Nancy Pelosi. Nancy, as a democrat, has accumulated 100 million dollars since she took office. That makes her a far right uber-reactionary republican in all but name. I haven’t been back to “The Burgh” in years, but I do sometimes miss that faint whiff of coal smoke on the air. It really was perfume, and it’s gone forever.

        • Joe Tedesky
          June 27, 2017 at 8:43 pm

          Yeah I miss looking up at the orange sky glowing over the Southside of Pittsburgh on a warm summer Saturday night….oh those were the days, (cough-choke-cough).

          When I look back upon that big business agent guy, and how he said it and where he said it, that’s where I developed a sense of respect for hearing stuff and where you heard it. Often the truth came from the most unlikely sources. I also had wondered where this union business agent himself was hanging out. Where do you get the right info like that on what’s going to happen next? My South Philly cousins had better knowledge of what the next coming thing was, and knew where to look.

          Pelosi along with her equals sold their soul to the corporate interest, and the corporate media backed by the corporate donor class have captured the mechanisms of the internal workings of this nation. It’s anyone’s quess on how we citizens may gain control of this wealthy runaway train, but someone should since this cho-cho is running out of track.

          Hey F.G. is Kennywood open?

      • Dave P.
        June 27, 2017 at 8:03 pm

        Joe, very good Comments. As always, your comments gave meaning to an otherwise kind of intellectual article. I worked in manufacturing during late 1960’s and 70’s in Midwest – workers had well paying unionized jobs, life time employment. There were so many Big Manufacturing Corporations, machine shops in small towns making parts, tool and die shops . . . Small towns in Midwest were humming. Everything looked promising.

        It is all history now to write about. I visited Michigan last month. I felt sad looking at the devastation The Elite you mentioned had brought on the country – complete destruction of once very mighty Industrial Manufacturing Infrastructure. I wonder you have heard about it, GM has moved a big part of it’s Engineering Design and Development from Warren, Michigan to China. It is very difficult even for people with Ph.D’s to find steady jobs. There is not much left out there.

        As you said ,this downward slide started big time with President Reagan. I laughed aloud at your comments on Reagan Era a few days ago about the corporate jobs with pen stripe suites, and every body was going to get rich. Reagan was a real Political Magician – like a snake charmer. He even charmed the Blacks in the South. I happened to be working for a short time in Baton Rouge, La. during 80’s. The Blacks there were swinging and singing: going to have a corporate job, going to get rich.

        • Joe Tedesky
          June 27, 2017 at 9:18 pm

          I know about the mid-western exodus and demise of those small tooling firms. I awhile back commented on how our family owned business bought tooling from a large America corporation who was moving their manufacturing off shore. With the loss of so many of those mid-western vendors our business I’m happy to say has been able to work around it, and we still manufacture all our component parts here in the U.S.. The good news, is for those small mid-western firms who did survive many are doing okay. They are a lot smaller without Detroit but these durable little machine jobs have downsized right enough to be decently profitable and be okay. Our product through our distributors also sells well in China, but we purchase about 15% of what we sell from China. China makes the fast selling things for $2.xx we make the niche things for $200.xx

          A longtime ago on a Saturday afternoon back in the early 80’s, over a bottle of tequila and my using some amateur numerology I came to the conclusion that it was with Ronald Reagan or Henry Kissinger who was the 666 Beast. I woke up sometime later in 1993 and Bill Clinton was president. Seeing Clinton in the White House made me swear off drinking, because I knew I better keep my sober eye on him. What Reagan didn’t destroy of the steel industry in the 80’s Clinton wiped away with one stroke of the pen in the 90’s with NAFTA.

          • Dave P.
            June 28, 2017 at 3:03 am

            I am very glad to hear the good news about your business. Chinese right now at a stage where Japanese used to be around 1950, selling shoes and all that. Chinese are working very hard to climb to the next stage. If or when they get to that stage, there will be more dislocations in the business world.

            Regarding Clintons, they were in cahoots with Robert Rubin, Altaman, Summers, and all the other Wall Street gang. In fact, they pander to the Financial Oligarchy’s every whim. Bill and Hillary destroyed the old progressive Democratic Party, and the Industry as you mentioned.

    • mike k
      June 27, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Remembrance of things past
      don’t go there anymore
      nostalgia too thick
      tears buried too deep

      Can I dream a new dream
      pretty enough to hide the old
      pain so deep in my soul
      from wounds that won’t heal

      If I can’t guide you
      will you ever get home
      I’ve lost may way too
      who will take us along?

      • mike k
        June 27, 2017 at 5:49 pm

        That poem was meant to go beneath F.G.’s thoughtful sharing – a resonance. Copland’s Fanfare often brings tears in my eyes, because of the nostalgia for what could have been – is only we had loved more…..

        • mike k
          June 27, 2017 at 5:53 pm

          Damn! is should read if we had only……. (when will I ever learn,….) No wonder people hire others to do proof reading. I used to do that. I was pretty good correcting other people’s work, but my own….no way.

    • Gregory Herr
      June 27, 2017 at 9:18 pm

      They just don’t build ’em like they used to.

  11. June 27, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks for an article worth contemplating, not thought about often enough. The power of super-plutocracy, the very wealthy getting control of the capitalist system to bend economic forces so that the common people would have to struggle more and more to survive, degrading the education system so the common children would not learn critical thinking to understand what was happening, technological changes to bring about a conditioned fantasyland existence to divert critical thinking, were part of this conditioning process. So many factors, an evolutionary historical development in this USA, the belly of the beast of capitalism. All these came together over decades. Getting rich was held out as a carrot when it was not possible for many.

    At the library the other day, I came across one of Studs Terkel’s book “Hard Times”, interviews with the common man in the aftermath of the Great Depression. The days of people being interested in Studs’ work became passe. The books are about getting rich, Suze Orman and all that type. It takes a lot of questioning and self-reflection for an individual to remain a moral being, when we are living in a society that has lost its moral center and replaced it with selfishness and desire for acquisition of goods. We are being consumed by consumerism, a real con job done on a daily basis. We have gone from Sumer, the early peoples of what is now Iraq and is now a disappeared civilization, to Con-Sumer. And we may be disappearing, too.

    • mike k
      June 27, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      I like Con-Sumer! That’s progress – not.

      • mike k
        June 27, 2017 at 6:00 pm

        Studs Terkel was a gem. listened to him on the radio when I lived in Chicago.

  12. Bob Van Noy
    June 27, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Just yesterday, I received an old book recommended on the internet that stunned me in its simple honesty. The book is “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of The United States” by Charles A. Beard, a man I wasn’t aware of until yesterday. A wonderful man, who worked with his wife writing about our populist heritage in America. He died in 1949 but not before establishing The New School in response to loyalty oaths and elite money influencing academia. It seems that much changed in post war America… A man not unlike Henry Wallace.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_A._Beard

  13. Herman
    June 27, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    What Professor Brenner has to say expresses itself in our view of our foreign policy when there is no outrage at our assault on life and limb in the Middle East, not one ounce of empathy for those who have become victims of our actions. It manifests itself in our lack of concern for the distorted distribution of wealth and in the scoffers at the idea of health as a right for all of our citizens. Lost is the thought that the inheritance of wealth should not be allowed to create an aristocratic class, that those who earn great amounts do so because of god given gifts and those from the nation in which they live that has created conditions to allow that to happen.

  14. June 27, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    F. G., your poem is terrific, encapsulates a lot, should be set to music. I never liked Copland very much except “Fanfare for the Common Man”. Gershwin, that’s different.

    • F. G. Sanford
      June 27, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      Thanks – I wrote a note to Joe T. before I noticed your comment. We’ve lost a lot, and almost nobody remembers how it all happened. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought Copland was a little repetitive.

    • Zachary Smith
      June 29, 2017 at 12:56 am

      Given that the number of “good” American Composers is a small one, Copland is included almost by default. IMO Bernstein is far better, and for my exile on a desert island I’d rather have the music of Amy Beach than Copland. Alan Hovhaness is really variable in quality; his best is wonderful but there wasn’t all that much of the upper tier stuff. One example though:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2J72OqHGvo

      Best version of his best piece, in my opinion.

      The essay was good, but it could have been better. I had a general “scattershot” feel when wading through it – it could stand some editing. Again an opinion, but I’d have preferred that Mr. Brenner replaced every instance of “common man” with “ordinary citizen”.

      With every passing year I’m more depressed by the way the Rich Guys abuse us. There is a recent piece in the Chicago Tribune (of all places) titled/subtitled “An unfair burden
      Cook County failed to value homes accurately for years. The result: a property tax system that harmed the poor and helped the rich.”

      The Rich Guys arranged for an “elected” hired hand to fix things up so the poor guys shoulder an unfair property tax burden. I’ve seen the same thing in my part of Indiana – low-end real estate is taxed on evaluations double or triple the market value.

      Look at Ferguson Missouri and places like it – how the system is rigged so the poor people pay a disproportionate amount of the taxes by fines and fees enforced by mercenary police.

      Why fix infrastructure when the Rich no longer use it? And when they must, they’re given special privileges at the airports, special treatment when they accidentally encounter the court systems.

      The wealthy people are increasingly dismissing us “ordinary citizens” as factors in their world view. They really do believe that in their gated communities they will remain immune to the horrors climate change is bringing to us. That’s why they either ignore the issue – or hire propagandists to keep the matter “confused”. In the meantime they’ll be quietly buying property on high ground, and later still on high ground trending towards the Poles. Each place well equipped with luxury survival shelters, of course. After that, God Willing, Elon Musk will be selling $10 million dollar tickets to the Rich People Colony on Mars.

      So to hell with “The Common Man”.

      Literally.

  15. June 27, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Blacks no doubt have a different perspective on the death of the common man.

    • June 27, 2017 at 5:00 pm

      All Americans want, the right to determine their own future in prosperity, but are encouraged to do that separately.
      Black Americans make up only 13% America. While non-Hispanic White Americans make up 62%. It is most likely that low income Whites far outnumber low income non-Whites. Yet low income Non-White Hispanics, Asians, Southeast Asians and Arabs see themselves as separate from all Whites, even poor Whites. Blacks as a whole have always been separate from Whites as a whole, yet Black Americans have been integral to America since it’s inception by White Americans.
      It is possible that Black Americans see themselves as the victims of the Common Man, while Americans of other races see themselves as survivors of the Common Man’s exploits in their home countries. Having made it to America, they survived, while Black Americans are the descendants of Africans who felt no urgent desire to come to America.

  16. Cal
    June 27, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Excellent article.
    I know some of those common men that are still left.

  17. Drew Hunkins
    June 27, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    In no way should mass entertainment media ever slide back into the racist and sexist caricatures that filled up 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s television and Hollywood. But the current portrayal of white middle-aged American men in contemporary television commercials, sitcoms and dramas is troubling and disconcerting. It now seems no white middle-aged man can even manage to tie his shoes without appearing to be a dork, moron, or uncouth buffoon.

    Again, having pointed out this irritating tendency of the contemporary mass entertainment media to brand virtually all white, middle-aged men as unattractive louts and idiots, I’m obviously not advocating a return to the racist and sexist stereotypes of the mid 20th century.

  18. LJ
    June 27, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    Political correctness rotted out the brain of some of the common men and polluted the brains of their children. Television and it’s embrace of pathetic stupidly also hurt peoples brains, social networking and the new generations of hand held devices delivered a third strike. Common man out, instead vid-e-it staring into a computer thinking they are doing something other than stultifying their sensibilities and brainwashing themselves. Well, there is a lot more porn to look at. Some real common people are looking at it right now.

    • Cal
      June 27, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      @LJ

      True.

    • Zachary Smith
      June 30, 2017 at 11:07 pm

      Television and it’s embrace of pathetic stupidly also hurt peoples brains, social networking and the new generations of hand held devices delivered a third strike.

      There were plenty of stupid people around before television was invented. The instant access to “social networking” with the little hand-held devices simply allows all kinds of groups to instantly “connect” with each other. In that sense we’ve taken a backwards step, for stupid or derangedd people feel “empowered” when communicating with others just like them. Which in turn makes that entire grouping easy prey for the much smarter folks who can manipulate them as I would a 6-year-old’s jigsaw puzzle.

      Just an opinion, but the trends have been made worse by “self esteem” education practices. Why bother trying to understand the lectures and textbooks when you KNOW you’re OK just the way you are. Do you suppose this type won’t leap at the chance to dump on their intellectual superiors as “pointy-headed liberals”?

  19. R.Millis
    June 27, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    What the author fails to point out is the essence of what Americans have believed and hoped for since it’s inception.
    It was H.L. Mencken who vividly pointed to what is now destroying this nation:

    1. A nation of people who clamored for their own Manifest Destiny
    When the first book shops opened on the East Coast they brought with them European topics of history, philosophy, linguistics, literature of first rank. The Americans, invariably, refused to spend time reading “impractical European topics. What did they choose instead: how to build a home, or books on plumbing, farming and so forth. That tradition of remaining wholly ignorant of the outside world, including our 2nd rate literary men/women.
    2. A nation of conformist-thinkers that went way back to the black/white views of Calvinist thinking
    Unlike well educated, informed Europeans, Americans have ALWAYS looked at Life in practical ways. The US is the only shining beacon on the hills which proved to be pure propoganda for….conformist-thinking. If you listen to well educated Europeans, they DO NOT view life in black and white images. Instead, they few hot topics in many shades of grays, browns, whites.

    These two fundamentel facts of the American people explain why “the common man” has been destroyed. It’s why today’s Americans, not part of the elite, have lost their way – because those initial beliefs have all been smashed by the very thing destroying the society: the 1% who own every avenue of modern America. Pathetic times are ahead simply because Americans are now bankrupt in their social, historical, illiterate.

  20. michael lacey
    June 27, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    The ugly truth is that neoliberals just don’t like working people. They don’t like “bottom up” prosperity, and the reason for it is very simple. “Corporate lords” have a harder time kicking them around. Once you understand this about neoliberals, the real motivation for their policies makes perfect sense. Remember, cheap-labour conservatives believe in social hierarchy and privilege, so the only prosperity they want is limited to them. They want to see absolutely nothing that benefits those who work for an hourly wage.
    The strategy is clear. The more ignorant and destitute people there are – desperate for any job they can get – the cheaper the neoliberalscan get them to work.

    • NormanB
      July 2, 2017 at 10:06 am

      And the easier they get them to join the military.

  21. Gregory Herr
    June 27, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    A common man views his relationship with others through a lens that refracts light in a way that renders differences negligible as compared to the sense of our commonalities. He recognizes the hope kindled in another’s eyes…the mirth and joy of laughter…the curiosity, wonder, pain, and fear of being in a world of unknown fates and durations.
    A common man is attuned to nature…he feels the earth in his steps and enjoys the sweat of his brow and the dirt on his hands that comes with the accomplishment of work. He sees his own child when he sees another’s child and notices his own missteps at least as readily as he notices the missteps of others. The common man has compassion and empathy and imagination.
    I love this line from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway: “Don’t be alarmed at what you see, ’cause you yourself are just the same as what you see in me.”

    • Cal
      June 27, 2017 at 10:02 pm

      +10

    • mike k
      June 28, 2017 at 6:42 am

      Beautiful Gregory. Thank you.

    • Sam F
      June 28, 2017 at 9:39 pm

      That “the common man has compassion and empathy and imagination” is a fine ideal. But after the generation that topples oligarchy, the “common man” develops and thrives only in a community seeking the common good.

      The article points to the moral corruption and comfortable hypocrisies of the affluent. Commenters note that “neoliberals just don’t like working people” and that instead of community, most “Americans are now bankrupt” in social and moral values, thanks to pervasive mass media propaganda. The sense of community of the “common man” includes social and moral values and intellectual tradition that has been destroyed by the oligarchy mass media. The higher level social contracts, by which we can give more than we expect to be reciprocated, are ever less sustainable; we must be selfish or we become martyrs.

      Without a restoration of democracy by toppling oligarchy, the social and moral values and intellectual tradition cannot be broadly re-learned, the community of the “common man” cannot be restored. We know the destination but not the path. A few groups of higher souls wonder what is to be done, hundreds of years since their ancestors last spoke credibly of the revolution that brought them what they now have lost. A few souls tortured already cry for violence. But until all have suffered and fear for their very survival, they will not see force as the solution, they will not cause that fear in the oligarchy, that is the only language of the tyrants over them. The common man must be reborn in fire, and no one wishes to believe that until they are there already.

      • Gregory Herr
        June 28, 2017 at 10:54 pm

        It’s not an ideal…it’s just my definition, or meditation, on what a “common” man means to me, without any overlapping confusions with more popular “definitions”.
        The rest of what you say is a “too much for me”. I think “values” like compassion, or a sense of kinship, are simple and intrinsically understood. I’m not so sure about what must be “re-learned”. I understand we are “up against it” when it comes to larger societal influences that work against compassion or a sense of kinship, but I still don’t see the necessity for some climatic upheaval (perhaps I misunderstand or misstate). I don’t lay claim to having suffered or feared for my survival to a degree that many in this world have experienced, but I have been through a bit of “fire” and I am economically and biologically insecure…still the idea of “forceful” or violent revolution seems beyond the pale to me. Our “revolution”, if it comes, will be the result of groups within power structures changing minds (with help from an “awakened” populace).
        I’m probably naive in all this, but I don’t say it with any sense of hope…because I have little of that (thanks Obama!)…anyway, I appreciate your thoughts Sam, and am still open to your ideas about this..

        • Brad Owen
          June 29, 2017 at 7:30 am

          I agree that the only “Revolution” worthwhile is one led by groups within power structures changing minds…and that is the domain of the Zeitgeists. The ancients understood this much better than we moderns, thinking as we do that we walk our Paths alone, unaccompanied by “Others” intending our good, or our demise, all the time silently “whispering” in the “Ear” of our mind. I’m not speaking of any Orthodoxy. I’m speaking of a Reality that various Orthodoxies tried (but failed) to capture and present for our inspection.

      • Sam F
        June 30, 2017 at 7:55 am

        Gregory and Brad, yes it would be far preferable to remove oligarchy by “groups within power structures changing minds” and there is no practical alternative until far more are suffering. But I do not see historical examples, so I presume that it won’t work, even while continuing my work within peaceful parameters. The problem is that tyrants do not care about principles: there is no basis for persuasion at all. If you are trying persuasion, they ignore it because that signals that they have won. When they seem to have been persuaded, in fact they are afraid and looking for excuses, as when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed after nationwide rioting, the last progressive legislation of this country, almost a quarter of its entire history ago. That is the nature of tyranny.

        Tyranny is a science developing by great leaps. Since 1964 we have had no broad progressive legislation or structural reform. Almost no honest politicians or judges remain. Mass media have been consolidated completely as propaganda corporations. Promiscuous government surveillance is unquestioned. Corporate oligarchy reigns in the economy without remorse. Wars proceed secretly or with nothing but gestures at rationales. The US does nothing good at all, even for its own people. All three branches of federal government are utterly corrupt. Where persuasion has failed for three generations, the tyrants have all power and will not be persuaded.

        • Gregory Herr
          June 30, 2017 at 1:56 pm

          Sobering and true Sam. Awesome comment.

  22. itsmeagain
    June 27, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    yes, yes, yes, all is true: corporate lords, fundamental facts, political correctness, Copeland, Brenner, Bread, Studs, Reagan, New Deal, common man syndrome; but where in the discussion are the underling responsible themes?
    Could the cause of all of this chaos be hidden within the constitution?. Does the structure of the constitution divide by its construction our nation into two different classes of people: the privileged governor class ( I call the slave drivers hired to the Pharaohs) and the governed class(those who build the pyramids where ever and when ever a Pharaoh needs one)?
    Does the constitution erase the uniform distribution of power? Does the constitution capture, package, and distribute political power in a fashion (much as “patents convert ideas invented by others into useful products made in Pharaoh owned factories”, much as real estate deeds convert once “commonly shared-public properties” into Pharaoh owned tenement rental properties)?
    Though it seems on the surface that the constitution formats a best-man wins environment, in reality it seems, it may have, separated the people of our nation, into those few with 100% of the power, and the many who have 0% of the power. The society plan in the constitution seems to highly favor the Pharaohs, because only a Pharaoh has sufficient resources to always win! If true, it seems it enables the Pharaohs to license the political powers extracted from the masses, to the appointed members of the governor [slave driver] class; and it means “only power licensed members of the governor group” can exercise the political power, (just as only corporate officers can exercise the corporate power in accord with the directives given to them by the board of directors, the stockholders are left with no power). If we think of the members of the governor class as the Pharaoh hired slave-drivers, it is the slave-drivers who answer only to the Pharaohs, but it is the tax money taken from the stone-toiling members of the governed class that the Pharaoh uses to pay his licensed slave-driver governors, (all Governors are paid a salary, while none of 340,000,000 members of the governed group are compensated). In short, the members of the governed group are behaviorally-restricted by rule of law, the rules are enforced by governor class servants licensed by the Pharaohs. Could it be this is what the constitution does? If so, was such a result intended? In fact such separation of power is what the republic type constitutions installed in regime changed [foreign] nations seem to nearly always do: the globe over. Could the constitutional republic be a type of instrument which creates structures, processes, and interfaces that separate the mass of the people in a nation from their political power? Disconnecting political power from the masses seems to allow Pharaoh-Oligarchs to license the political powers, once held by the masses, to members of the slave-driver-governor-class?
    The 1787 Philadelphia convention was supported by the richest, most able, corporate warriors and bankers of the times. Our constitutional founders were, after all, among the few politically powerful who initiated and conducted a war that separated America from the British laws and corporate monopolies that claimed all profits in America belonged to the corporate owned British Empire.
    So it seems at no time, during the formative years or since, have the mass of people in America, those in the stone-toiling-governed class, had design responsibility for the constitution that directs their daily lives and upon which their personal security has been made dependent.
    Clearly voting for candidates based on “fake-news directives”, “party=backed-propaganda” and “candidate-uttered promises” has not led to uniformly distributed justice nor has it produced a transparent trustworthy government. Something is wrong, but what is it? Seems to me finding the problem and discovering a fix should be the job of alternative media because these concerns are not limited in scope, they are part of the universal human heritage, and hosting that heritage is the common man.

    • mike k
      June 28, 2017 at 7:00 am

      However fine and wonderful the idealistic sentiments expressed in founding documents, the rich and powerful will find myriad ways to subvert them to their own ends. Circumventing the laws is just another challenge for them on their way to greater power and control.

    • Bob Van Noy
      June 28, 2017 at 9:56 am

      Itsmeagain, this is the arguement that Charles Beard was making in his 1913 book that I link above. Our society should be open to all investigations, challenges as to to motive, that’s what freedom is. The Founders had self interest, much like each and all of us do. The point that I was trying to suggest is that in the “McCarthy Era” there was a consorted effort to stifle freedom of thought in liberal education much like the the obvious clarion call of Justice Powell (The memo called for corporate America to become more aggressive in molding society’s thinking). I’ll provide the link below…
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_F._Powell_Jr.#Powell_Memorandum

      • Patience Pratt
        June 30, 2017 at 9:17 pm

        Yet Bob Van Noy,

        It’s the liberals that have become the most closed minded. No room for discussion. No allowances for diversity of ALL thinkers and opinions, certainly no tolerance to CELEBRATE ALL sides of our history — good or bad. If liberals don’t like your ideal, tear down flags and statues, take away prayer and tolerance for ALL religions.

  23. Miranda Keefe
    June 28, 2017 at 1:25 am
  24. Rick Lewandowski
    June 28, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Take the Amtrak from Michigan to Chicago. Look out the window and observe the total (and I mean total) wasteland of Hammond, Gary, Michigan City, Blue Island. Mile upon mile of steel mill carcasses, and by implication, ruined lives, families, and communities. Sound economic policy? At the risk of showing my age, I am reminded of the lyrics in the old Steppenwolf song (Monster), “America, where are you now, don’t you care about your sons and daughters? Don’t you know, we need you now?
    We need you now to fight the monster.”

    • LJ
      June 28, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      John Kay was great. His wife is great too. Germans, They aren’t real Americans. Not stupid enough. Goddam the Pusher Man. Magic Carpet Ride.

    • Patience Pratt
      June 30, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      Rick:

      NAFTA signed by President BILL CLINTON! SHOULD HAVE NEVER HAPPENED! Greedy Corporate Shareholders and outrageous salaries for stupid CEO’s who can only balance their own checkbook.

  25. Mild-ly Facetious
    June 28, 2017 at 9:28 am

    “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. …When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
    Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4, 1967

    • mike k
      June 28, 2017 at 10:46 am

      This is what characterizes our Rulers: people don’t count.

    • sierra7
      June 28, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      +1

  26. HpO
    June 28, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    What’s your solution, then, “University of Pittsburgh” Professor Michael Brenner? Where does the POWER of resurrection come from for the “Death of America’s Common Man”? Is this it – “Let humanity be the ultimate measure of all that we do”? There’s hope in that because such an “enlightened social humanism fostered during the second half of the Twentieth Century … propelled progressive thinking and policy for a century”? But “it no longer balances and orients us”, though, you admitted. How come? What happened to its POWER in America during the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, HW Bush, Clinton, GW Bush, Obama and Trump eras of presidency? What good, then, is it in the first place, this “enlightened social humanism”, seeing as, obviously, it got so easily overPOWERed and rendered POWERless for good? by the likes of:

    (1) a “Victorian ethic grounded in Social Darwinism”; (2) “market fundamentalist economics” per “the Koch Bros”; (3) “Ayn Randish … narcissistic egomania”; (4) “revivalist Christian sects” promising “New Age Salvation … for anxious egos”; (5) “the wholesale flight from responsibility by America’s elites” with “status anxiety” who, therefore, “can’t be bothered by the plight of the Common Man”!

    And if you’re getting the sense from me that I believe the POWER of resurrection can only come from the crucified, buried and resurrected “Common Man” Christ Jesus, you’re right. He’s the only source of that POWER – not some “enlightened social humanism”, no, sir!

    • Zachary Smith
      June 30, 2017 at 10:56 pm

      “Common Man” Christ Jesus

      Those two terms simply do not belong together. Considering the splash he made in history, Jesus Christ was the exact opposite of “common”.

  27. June 28, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    Prof. Brenner,
    “The Common Man”, like unto, “the Holy Man”, a transfiguration at best of narcissistic ambitions
    generated by Greeks and Jews in particular, is a flattering anecdote in the long history of human
    oppression, which is a manifest of ‘mere biology’. Aspirations of common ‘brotherhood’ and holy
    or just benign civic and personal behavior and institutions are commendable, but doomed to failure.
    Economics and politics are mere mechanisms reflecting the biological mandates of human being.
    One might expect ‘virtue’ and even nobility from a cat or a dog or a gorilla…but only foolishness
    anticipates humanity from any human. I am not a ‘cynic’…but you do not connect the dots efficiently
    and draw conclusions in this dissertation that are not consistent with the ‘facts’.

    So if you require further elucidation, I will refer you to my own dissertations on the broad subject.
    Your commentary is admirable and moving I think…but you fail to ‘connect the dots’, I think.

    Sincerely,
    Gerard Clarkes

  28. itsmeagain
    June 29, 2017 at 12:15 am

    re Bob Van Noy June 28, 2017 at 9:56 am President Wilson wrote something similar to the message in your link above, consider: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_F._Powell_Jr.#Powell_Memorandumin 1912, I cannot find it just now..
    https://lemmingfarm.wordpress.com/2008/01/22/the-powell-memorandum-the-looter-capitalist-manifesto/
    https://www.amazon.com/What-Heck-Are-You-President/dp/B005FOGZLO

    The Capone Family owned, or could have owned, whoever and whatever they wanted in Chicago. It is this exact type of situation that explains the possible security risk a constitution creates, when it renders the “masses” of a nation to be powerless; because the awesome powers assigned to the empowered few, generates opportunity for “contra-nation interest” to position themselves to control and dictate to the powerful few: It took a very brave and willing federal court, as well as a highly focused, well-trained and armed Federal Agency to reclaim the government, banking, real estate and manufacturing industries from the Capone family for Chicago residents. Who could reclaim America for Americans?

    • Bob Van Noy
      June 30, 2017 at 10:24 am

      Itsmeagain, Wow! Thank you for your response. I’m so very enamored by the depth of this internet experience… Responses like yours, reflect broad reading and thought, precisely what I’ve always believed a liberal education was supposed to be. What we’re sharing “appears” so rarely these days, that one fears that it might disappear completely, but you have proven that it has not. You ask “Who could reclaim America for Americans?” We Could… And thank you so much! robert.edward5@aol.com

  29. Tony Vodvarka
    June 29, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Let us reject the concept of a “common man” from our political vocabulary , a sentimental, condescending term from a much more prosperous era. What is then an uncommon man, the one percent who constitute our voracious, parasitic elite? When the American people finally learn to identify with “working class”, we will be able to start making progress.

  30. Mild-ly Facetious
    June 29, 2017 at 9:47 am

    Democracy (the common man) vs. Oligarchy

    By Bernie Sanders

    https://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/04/01/democracy-vs-oligarchy

  31. historicvs
    June 29, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Mark Twain wryly commented that everyone claims to respect “the common man” but no man (and certainly no woman, according to the humorist) admits to being him.

    Steinbeck observed that socialism never caught on in America because the common man (there he is again) does not consider himself a member of an oppressed proletariat, but rather a temporarily embarrassed millionaire.

  32. charlie
    June 29, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    Mr. Brenner,
    I disagree sir. While I am 70 years old, I’m still here, alive and sort of kicking. I was a machinist/mechanic during my working years. I always have and still refer to myself as a working class guy. Yes, I AM a common man and am damn proud to be so.
    I know the majority of those I worked along side with thought they were middle class, but no way were they, not then, not now. The middle class are managers, and that sort of folks. We need them of course, but to be working class was and still should be a badge of honor. The working men and women made things, we were the ones who built companies and the infrastructure of this country.
    I blame the media and politicians for denigrating the term working class. Yeah, it may sound a bit Marxist, but so what? I am proud to have been born into a working class family and my life was proud of me for being true to her and myself.
    One more thing, it is the working class and poor kids who have fought and still fight the damn fool wars of choice the politicians get us into.
    Just my own 2 cents worth, adjusted for inflation, now about $0.0000274315

    • Gregory Herr
      June 30, 2017 at 3:22 am

      The worth of what you said charlie is honorable and immeasurable.

    • Bob Van Noy
      June 30, 2017 at 11:11 am

      charlie, I’m 73 and I have calculated that my HS class (62) was the last truly innocent All American believing, anything is possible class, before The Vietnam War. My family was New Deal and Union, all the way… I worked a Man’s job in a Union Shop as a teen and loved those guys. I went into the service at 18 because my family believed in “service”. It was very much a peace-time Army, and had been since Korea. I joined in July 1962, by Fall, The Cuban Missle Crisis would happen and Vietnam began officially in December of 1962. In the Spring my unit flew to Cuba for the invasion of Cuba but was withdrawn for some unknown reason (by me that is). I left the Service in the Summer of 1965, after my Commander In Chief had been Assassinated, as my Division departed for Vietnam…. Back home, now in College, utilizing the GI Bill, I received word of the death and injury of friends and family, and nonsense. I became a Peace Advocate. Now; my main point: We should have joined hands at that time, student activists and blue collar unionists but we didn’t, Because, Johnson was a crook and Nixon was worse. Remember CREEP?, they actively prevented an organized response to peace utilizing propaganda and obfuscation. Really; an act of Treason. Truth is, we should have stopped that War and we Still can come together to stop this one! GWAT, bull…

    • Patience Pratt
      June 30, 2017 at 9:08 pm

      Charlie:

      I admire you and your skills! Most 40 year old people cannot read a ruler these days, hell, college graduate engineers either! And I know because we try to hire skilled workers at every level.

      My Dad’s first job was at age 7: he was allowed to shovel coal during recess for his hot lunch. My husband and I both worked our way through every manufacturing job to upper management while attending college at night. Oh, and we graduated with ZERO college debt and NEVER TOOK OUT A LOAN. We paid as we went.

      The ‘common man’ is the salt of the earth! They are treasures and the foundation of our nation. They are smarter than most and have more skills than they are credited with. The inherited wealthy have always looked down on the ‘common man.’

      Our neighbor is a cardiac surgeon. He required a plumber. The plumber came and worked 4 hours and handed the doctor a bill. Our neighbor yelled, “Hell man, I’m a surgeon and I don’t make this kind of money!” The plumber quietly said, “I didn’t either when I was a doctor.” True story.

      There is no job that Americans should be “too good” to work OR the “work is beneath me.” Why are we hiring Mexicans to pick our vegetables instead of having pride in being a farmer and having an honest job? All of our Founding Fathers and early citizens had FARMS while working another job.

      Yep, also the media hype and politicians — I’ll give you the goodies for a vote because ‘you’re too smart to pick beans.’ Let’s all reread Chicken Little — work and gather you own food. Stop robbing those of us who weren’t too good to clean toilets and work our way to VP because you need to play games on your iPhone and spend your food stamps and EBIT cards from our earned money.

  33. June 30, 2017 at 1:04 am

    Thanks for the excellent article by Dr Brenner on the Death of America’s Common Man.
    It certainly is a sad society the “beggar my neighbour” philosophy has brought about,
    no concern for our neighbours here, or our fellow humans being bombed to death
    by US-led terror wars. – Kay Weir, New Zealand

  34. Patience Pratt
    June 30, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    Hey guys, all the manufacturing jobs left in the 80’s under Reagan because Bill Clinton signed us into NAFTA!!!! Greedy SHAREHOLDERS AND UNION officials also want more money, more money, more money, and UNION WORKERS want more benefits which adds more costs to the end product than the “Common Man” can afford.. So, NAFTA made it easy to ship our lifetime jobs to Mexico. Then Mexico got expensive so the companies sent the jobs to $0.30/hour China. Check out your history! Reagan should have STOPPED NAFTA, but Corporations LIED THEIR A** OFF Saying it would help the American factories and workers. HA HA HA.
    Bob Van Noy , please come to Binghamton, New York and talk to thousands of Viet Nam kids that are ALIVE because we took part. The problem was then, as is now, our POLITICIANS NEVER HAVE THE STOMACH FOR US TO GO IN AND WIN and then COME HOME.

    There will NEVER be Peace. AND KAY WEIR: the WHOLE WORLD depends on the US to help them when there is a war. They NEVER want to pay their part, but expect us as US Citizens to send our sons/daughters and our treasury to help. We are “Expected” to police the world, then we’re criticized because you won’t defend yourself.

    Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs. Has Brenner EVER had a “real job?” Because the majority of academics are tenured ‘professionals’ who’ve never worked a ‘real job,’ can’t do anything outside a classroom, and are the most closed minds in the international sphere.

    • Zachary Smith
      June 30, 2017 at 10:50 pm

      I’d suggest you carefully read the essay again, for you seem to have missed the essence of it. As for your other remarks, they left me scratching my head.

      tear down flags and statues

      Considering the recent news involving these items, I deduce you’re on the side of the racists and other peckerheads who enjoy taunting others with the symbol of a treasonous rebellion for the sake of continuing and expanding human slavery. And those statues are of the traitors who did their best to destroy the US during that rebellion.

      Why are we hiring Mexicans to pick our vegetables instead of having pride in being a farmer and having an honest job?

      It’s difficult for me to believe you actually don’t know the answer to this question.

      Bob Van Noy , please come to Binghamton, New York and talk to thousands of Viet Nam kids that are ALIVE because we took part.

      You actually approve of the Vietnam War? Do you feel the same about the more recent adventures in Iraq, Libya, Central America, and Syria?

      Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs.

      Has Mr. Brenner ever shoveled coal? Picked cucumbers for pennies a bushel? I doubt it. Do you really think that people like him – who are likely in the top 2% of the US in terms of IQ – ought to be making beds in motels or flipping burgers at McGreasys? In my opinion there is nothing inherently dishonorable in being a teacher – at any level.

  35. R Davis
    July 2, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    Why does everyone yearn for yesterday ?
    The good old days when everyone was wholesome & pure – where – they keep telling us that – “you did not need to lock your doors at night” – not for one moment do I believe that fanciful fiction – it is simply not true – not then & not know.
    Many generations ago we the people were different – because the times were different – today – generations later – we the people have changed with the times – surely no one expects anything less – for us to be as we were then we would have to be neurologically retarded.
    The good old days never were – life on earth today is the best it has ever been – yet – & we the people of planet earth are brilliant.
    I am the common man & proudly so – the common man – the worker is the backbone of any society – they are the tax payer & the consumer & therefore the economic system flows like blood supply in a living body.
    Everyone else is THE DRAIN on the economic system & society at large.
    Our jobs have been given away to the Asia Pacific Region – the political genius has given our jobs away for free – to make a private killing for themselves – they have screwed us & still we are the salt of the earth but for us mate.

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