The Socio-Economic Crisis Behind the Second American Civil War

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The Socio-Economic Crisis Behind the Second American Civil War

Like others before it, our most recent social disorder has been intensified by issues of race. But in the longer run, the underlying causes of this civic breakdown go far beyond proximate reactions to the incompetent police killing of George Floyd.   Particularly in our core cities, our dysfunction results from the discontent of America’s growing, and increasingly multi-racial, class of “neo-serfs.”

Like its Medieval counterpart, today’s “serf class” consists of the permanently marginalized who, like the peasants of feudal times, is unlikely to move to a higher station in society.  This applies not only to the residents of our ghettos and barrios. Many of our young people, white and otherwise, appear to have little or no hope of attaining the usual milestones of entry into the middle class, which include gaining a useful and marketable skill, starting a small business, or buying a home or other property.

Throughout much of the 20th century, these aspirations were very much alive in the United States as more and more people, including racial minorities and immigrants, entered the middle ranks.  Now, in the 21st century, the doors have been slamming shut for millions of Americans.

This trend which appeared to be reversing somewhat until early this year has been made worse by the lockdowns surrounding the COVID19 pandemic.  Notably, almost 40% of those Americans making under $40,000 a year lost their jobs. The of those Americans making under $40,000 a year lost their jobs. The unemployment rate of those with less than a high-school diploma jumped from 6.8% in February to 21.2% in April.   For college graduates, it rose from 2.5% to 8.4%. And salaried workers have been laid off at roughly half the rate of hourly workers. 

The biggest drops in hiring have been concentrated in recreation and travel, largely “personal contact” jobs that employ many low-wage workers.   Employment in this sector dropped 70% while remaining remarkably stable throughout the public sector and in such fields as computer programming and networking.

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