For a while, it was fashionable to speak of the “Post 9-11” United States, as if great changes had taken place in America. What were those changes?
The most visible changes affected travel. Inconvenient security measures were incorporated into the procedures for boarding airline flights and some other means of transportation. More identification is now required for international travel.
Some changes are less visible. There is increasing surveillance of public and private places. Government agencies are now collecting and storing information on the private conversations and purchases of an unknown number of both Americans and foreign nationals.
But on the main, the United States is little changed since 9-11, except some lingering unease in the general public at the sight or thought of “Strangers.” Otherwise, life in the Post 9-11 goes on in pretty much the same way it did previously in most American homes and communities.
Now however, the United States is in the midst of the greatest economic upheaval in its history, and there will be profound change -- and you’d better believe it.
Whether what comes next in the United States will be referred to as the “Post Bail Out” or “Post Obama” U.S. will depend, I suppose, or whether Mr. Obama can be re-elected to a second term which, at the moment, must be judged unknowable.
But profound change there will be. Already, one change is obvious. The American middle class has lost a substantial part of its wealth -- homes or home equity, savings and investment, retirement funds and pensions.
Millions who were among the taxpaying middle class have lost their jobs. The ranks of the roughly 50% of American families who pay no taxes will swell -- the new unemployed will not have an income to tax. And, as the wealth of the American rich will remain protected -- that was the point of the Wall Street bail out -- the greatest share of government cost will continue to be borne by the middle class. This once seemed fair enough because there are more of the middle class, all of whom benefitted from one government service or another. However, as government expense and debt skyrocket and the middle class contracts, it may begin to seem very unfair.
At the same time, the fortunes of poor Americans will be improved. The new poor -- mostly white, suburban and voting -- will insist on it, unless by some administrative sleight of hand or “oversight” they lose their votes along with their former addresses and former jobs.