Charles Hugh Smith offers a horrifying jolt:
I actually lived in one of the last plantation “company towns” in Hawaii, and though Dole Pineapple didn’t operate a “company store” in 1969, earlier plantations (and coal mining towns, etc.) did–and the set-up was sweet indeed.
Much like a serf renting/sharecropping land owned by a manor-house or nobility, the plantation worker needed to borrow money to buy food and other necessities at the company store, which just happened to operate as a monopoly and just happened to charge sky high prices. (The serf needed to borrow seed for the next planting, and money to buy food for the family in between harvests.) The rate of interest paid by the serf/worker was always much higher than market rates–another monopoly capital (and highly profitable) feature of the set-up.
The system’s most pernicious feature: the worker/serf never escaped debt. Indeed, the system was constructed to increase the debt to the point it could never be paid off, insuring a lifetime of profitable servitude to the nobility/corporation.
Now the Powers That Be, as embodied in this Republican Administration and its lackeys/minions in both parties, have perfected an entire economy based on this “Company Store”
And if against all safeguards and probability this succeeds in gaining power, and burning the Constitution to preserve our freedom becomes a popular slogan, and a slyly articulate but otherwise inexperienced, almost mediocre, leader arises, and the corporate powers support this person in order to achieve their ends, then it will be time to leave, without looking back, before the storm breaks, and madness is unleashed, and a darkness falls over the land.
I would add only this: the middle class is an illusion, a false construct created by the Ministry of Propaganda to provide self-delusional cover for the serfs whose pride might be pricked by a realistic self-assessment of their true servitude.
The only people who can claim to be middle class are those few with virtually no debt and an income independent of the corporations who view employees as expenses to be slashed and burned as needed and the soon-to-be-bankrupt welfare state. I would estimate that by this more realistic and rigorous definition, no more than 4% of the nation’s households are truly middle class: independent professionals, small landlords, small business owners with no debt and agile, recession-resistant enterprises, etc.