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January 9, 2013

"Too Big" Is Hollowing the Middle Class, Killing the American Dream

By Rob Kall

There are different varieties of "too big"-- banks, businesses, stores, billionaires, global trade deals-- and they are all hollowing out the middle class and destroying the American dream. I sat down for dinner last night with, Stu, an old friend from kindergarten-- a guy who has worked for himself as an entrepreneur all his life, since he was a teenager, buying a home, raising a family. Now he's looking for a job.


There are different varieties of "too big"-- banks, businesses, stores, billionaires, global trade deals-- and they are all hollowing out the middle class and destroying the American dream. 

I sat down for dinner last night with, Stu, an old friend from kindergarten. We've known each other over 55 years. This is a guy who has worked for himself as an entrepreneur all his life, literally since he was a teenager, buying a  home, raising a family. Now he's looking for a job. 

my friend Stu, proprietor of Gallery Greetings
photo by Rob Kall

He's been in retail, wholesale, sales and manufacturing. For the past few years he has been selling products to small businesses-- dollar stores, variety stores, mom and pop shops. He's proud of how good he is at helping new store proprietors set up their stores to maximize floor space for their store's customer demographics. The problem is, he tells me, they're disappearing. it's harder and harder to make it, harder to compete with chain store dollar stores and big box stores like Walmart, Target and Kmart, and drug chains like CVS and Riteaid. 

The people he's done business with in recent years are often immigrants-- Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Mexican-- family businesses. They've been family businesses because retail stores have been so hard to make viable and competitive in the big box and chain store environment that it takes a family, sharing the burden, working without pay, to make it possible to keep a store afloat. Or at least it did" Now even those stores are dying. There are not enough small stores for my old friend Stu to do business with. He's looking for a job with a big company that operates chain stores, or a property management company (who do you think bought up all those foreclosed homes?)

I think this is another symptom of "too big" syndrome. We don't just have banks that are too big to fail. We have retailer giants that are hollowing out the middle class-- wiping out small businesses, killing the dreams of entrepreneurs and replacing them with minimum wage and part time job opportunities. 

"Too big" syndrome is ruining the planet, assaulting the middle class and putting the American dream out of reach of the ninety-nine percent.

Billionaires are corrupting congress and state legislatures, leading to regulations and deregulations that expose the middle class-- the 99%-- to much greater risks and harder lives. Too big to fail banks and investment operations have devastated our economy and routinely distort and disrupt supply and pricing of basic commodities like food, oil, fertilizers. And mega-retailers are also devastating the middle class and the putting the American dream out of reach. 

There is a simple answer. Create laws that set limits. Nature has all kinds of limits-- you don't see people who are twelve feet tall or trees that are five thousand feet tall because biology doesn't support what would be freaks. And Americans are very accustomed to limits. We have term limits for elected officials. We have height limits for fences, Size limits for residential lots-- bigger and smaller.  We have limits on rent price increases and interest rates. 

It is time we put limits that make "too big" obsolete-- that outlaw "too big"-- banks, billionaires, chain stores, box stores. These are all relatively new phenomena that there is no reason to accept as necessary or better. We can do without them. We should do without them. We can replace chain retailers with local businesses. We can replace giant banks with local banks that work together and cooperate to take advantage of opportunities of scale. And we can and should do without giant box stores. We can replace them with hundreds of thousands  of small businesses. We know that small businesses create more and better paying jobs. We need to take steps to create an environment that supports them and discourages the chains and box stores that suppress and kill small businesses. We can do that. We can even come up with ways to help/persuade the big chain and box store companies to change their business model to small stores that give serious equity to employees. And as Thom Hartmann and I have written about before, we need to outlaw billionaires. 

"Too big" syndrome is a major threat to the future of the middle class and the American dream. We need to put ALL the ways that "too big" syndrome manifests itself on the table-- and then outlaw all of them. You can assume that getting this conversation into high gear will start off with the paid defenders" and the dupes who have been propagandized into thinking that "too big" syndrome is part of the American way-- to attack this idea-- to call it socialist, communist, idiotic, crazy. 

The truth is there is a burgeoning bottom up movement, even a collection of bottom up movements aimed at making our world more localized-- described by terms like sustainable, re-localization, transition towns. These provide concrete alternatives to "too big" syndrome. This can be done. It must be done if the USA's middle class is to survive. Failure to respond, to outlaw "too big" will lead to a nation of one percenters who are very wealthy and ninety-nine percenters who subsist on minimum wage and inadequate "entitlement" bones that legislators have thrown to them to keep them quiet-- legislators loyal to the "too big."

I called my friend Stu to make sure he was okay with mentioning his name in the article. He okayed it and said I nailed it.  He also had an interesting suggestion--New home builders are sometimes required, when they build a big development, to include affordable HUD or HUD-type  housing. Stu's idea is that every big box store and mall should provide low rent store spaces and community centers-- "community commerce centers" that maintain diversity so every mall doesn't look like the same collection of franchise operations. 

That could be more doable than you think, but may not be so easy, for reasons you wouldn't expect.  Two years ago, a Henry, a fellow re-localization activist and I met with the manager of one of the largest malls in the county. We proposed that they provide free space for a local farmers' market. The property manager was actually very receptive. But the local farmers weren't They didn't have the people resources to make it viable. To me, this is a sign that things are really far along in killing some of the old ways. We need to figure out how to help turn things around and make things like this work. it's worth it. 

You can reach Stu at gallerygreetings@yahoo.com

Submitters Bio:

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

Rob Kall Wikipedia Page

Rob Kall's Bottom Up Radio Show: Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

Rob is, with Opednews.com the first media winner of the Pillar Award for supporting Whistleblowers and the first amendment.

To learn more about Rob and OpEdNews.com, check out A Voice For Truth - ROB KALL | OM Times Magazine and this article. For Rob's work in non-political realms mostly before 2000, see his C.V..  and here's an article on the Storycon Summit Meeting he founded and organized for eight years. Press coverage in the Wall Street Journal: Party's Left Pushes for a Seat at the Table

Here is a one hour radio interview where Rob was a guest- on Envision This, and here is the transcript. 

To watch Rob having a lively conversation with John Conyers, then Chair of the House Judiciary committee, click hereWatch Rob speaking on Bottom up economics at the Occupy G8 Economic Summit, here.

Follow Rob on Twitter & Facebook. His quotes are here

Rob's articles express his personal opinion, not the opinion of this website.

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