A diagnosis of American middle-class woes and a hopeful blueprint for its revival.
The embattlement of the middle class has, more than ever, become a recurrent theme in political discourse, especially since the catastrophic housing crisis of 2008. Moon (The Beltway Beast, 2014), a businessman and former financial-industry executive, attributes the group’s distress to a combination of stagnant wages and aggressively climbing costs, including those of health care, education, and an endless litany of taxes. Not content to gloomily dwell on bad news, the author finds promising reasons for hope, as well. For example, he notes that although women continue to lag behind their male counterparts in wages, that gap is steadily closing; their participation in the labor force continues to increase, and they constitute a bigger share of college graduates than ever before. And although it’s become commonplace to pillory millennials for their immaturity, Moon instead sees a savvy class of political entrepreneurs, ready and able to challenge the status quo. Finally, he asserts that the breakneck pace of technological progress is not only going to usher in new opportunity and a dramatic lowering of costs across the board, but also has the potential to transform the very structure of the economy, especially regarding health care: “A new paradigm shift is underway where decentralized and sharing models with emphasis on personal accountability is [sic] evolving that will make healthcare accessible and affordable for all.” The author plots out some sensible, if less-than-detailed, reforms, some of them economic, such as tax reform, and some of them political, such as revised term limits for politicians. It’s a thoughtful, lucid study, and it’s refreshing to see an unflinching discussion of the middle-class difficulties that doesn’t surrender to fatalistic despair. Sometimes Moon even seems too optimistic; for instance, he doesn’t address the ways in which increased technological sophistication could hurt the middle class, as whole professions get replaced by machines. Ultimately, the discussion of possible future reforms is simply too broad, and the book ambitiously covers too much ground for such a relatively slim volume. However, as a brief primer on the state of the middle class, this is a valuable contribution to public debate.
A sensible, bipartisan analysis of the future of a major segment of American society.