Monday, September 28, 2009

Class Mobility in Modern America

We often talk about class mobility in the United States and other capitalist nations. In truth, class mobility, when it exists, is essentially a lottery system, where a few slots are handed out on the back of many participants. A further truth is that in America, as elsewhere in the capitalist world, it is a rigged game; that is it is one in which prior winners get much better odds than the rest. However, more recently I have directly seen the “true form” of American “class mobility” in action.

Over the years the area I live in has changed from an essentially rural farming community to a resort community. While even as little as a decade ago farms were still common, and most foods could be locally sourced, those useful and productive farmlands were rapidly replaced with housing developments and golf courses.

The most immediate sign of this change can be found in the super markets. Where once local produce flourished, now there is trucked in industrial food “products”. The consequences can be seen at the pediatricians office.

Often now it is not at all unremarkable to see some 5 or 6 year old, already a hefty 60 or 80 lbs, waiting at the local pediatrician. Indeed, the change from local farms to franken-foods, highly profitable for demand driven capitalists in the food industry, was both so swift and so complete, that one finds local families where the youngest sibling is already larger than then eldest.

At the same time many of those former farms now serve as land for large and new housing developments and estates for the wealthy. Some are gated communities with their own private security forces, reminding me of the street mafiaso and wise guys one used to find living in Bayonne. Others are populated with doctors, lawyers, architects, and other similar people. But what all of them have in common is the need for “services”, whether to have someone wash their clothes, cook their meals, or raise their children.

Naturally, this need was supplied by a trailer park and trailer trucked homes for the servants and the working poor of the new malls and supermarkets, the people to clean and staff walmart, etc. Tucked away on some low laying land, next to a swamp and a “wildlife preserve” given to the county, land that the speculators at the time I guess deemed not to be desirable, a trailer park for the poor was born. There is a less commonly used road that runs through it. Out of site and out of mind, I guess.

But, as virtually every other piece of undeveloped land has now been sold, the trailer park lands themselves have actually become valuable. So for those people, they had a surprise when their properties were re-assessed with a 3 fold increase last year, and this was soon followed by a buyout offer from a developer for the park owners. Of course, if that does not work, there is always, thanks to our supreme court, the possibility of eminent domain; seizing the trailer park homes to give to wealthy developers who still wish to make more McMansions and golf courses for the wealthy. No doubt there are some swamps in a nearby county which could be developed in an out of the way and out of sight new trailer park for the working poor. For the poor, a longer commute. For the wealthy, a new golf course.

This then is the new class mobility found in America today; being poor means being forced to move from one undesirable homestead to another because some rich person wants your land. The mobility not of income, but rather of the highway.