Sociological Class Theories Term Paper

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Sociological Class Theories - Bush

In every society, people are grouped into a variety of categories in order to determine how they earn a living, and how much they earn that actually affects or is affected by the economy. This kind of social stratification is common in virtually all of modern societies, but social class theories can help explain or provide some insight as to why a certain economy works smoothly or inadequately. In effect, the real question becomes, is each social class being served fairly, or does one appear to have a class advantage over the others? The three primary theories of social class are 1) conflict, 2) functionalist, and 3) interactionist. If we examine George Bush's economic policies we'd notice that these were implemented for the express purpose of benefiting the upper classes even though tax cuts may at first glance, seem like an equal benefit for all. By applying each of the aforementioned to theories to Bush's economic policy, we can identify which seems to be the most pertinent.

According to conflict (Marxian) theory, "capitalist societies are divided into two opposing classes, wage workers and capitalists, and that conflict between these two classes will eventually lead to revolutions that will establish classless socialist societies." (Wright 1997) In regards to the functionalist viewpoint, "social classes will emerge because an unequal distribution of rewards is essential in complex societies." (Kornblum 2002) However, the interactionist perspective stresses the prestige factor of understanding the behaviors of status groups that form within a given class. In effect, two persons could be in an upper class neighborhood, but one owns an Olympic-size swimming pool whereas his neighbor only owns an above ground pool. "Armani suits are symbols of urbane professionalism; tweed suits and silk blouses are signs that a woman is a member of the country club set." (Dowd, 1985) That being said, Bush's economic plans seem to favor the upper class, but not just the wealthy, the extremely wealthy - the top one percent.

When we examine the regressive nature of Bush's tax initiatives, the single biggest component is helping single mothers to become financially stable. However, if we take a closer look at a program that was designed to remove certain bottlenecks in the tax code that act like an impediment for the middle class, we'd recognize that the problem is the kind of inequity normally tackled by the Democrats. "As wage earners advance beyond poverty and lose eligibility for income-support benefits like the earned-income tax credit, they face a very high marginal tax rate on every additional dollar they earn." (Greider 2000) The Bush plan helps them by doubling the tax credit for children and creating a new, lower tax bracket at 10% plus charitable deductions for non-itemized returns. "The result is that the zero-tax threshold would move up to $31,000 for single wage earners with children, $35,000 for married ones." (Herbert 2003) The helping hand for single parents would be to deliver about $2.6 billion to families of median income. However, this accounts for only 1.5% of Bush's total package whereas 60% of Bush's tax reductions ($81 billion) are allocated to some 13 million taxpayers who are already living in the highest economic bracket.

It appears that Bush's economic theory of trickle-down economics (hmm, where have we heard this phrase before? - Hello Mr. Reagan), marshals his plan after the functionalist sociological theory of stratification. Although some might argue that the conflict theory directly applies because Mr. Bush appears to favor the upper class over the working one, hence widening an already increasing gap between the two, the fact is Bush does believe that people who have displayed greater talents and deserve greater responsibilities and more money, should therefore be rewarded with greater tax breaks. In effect, some may contend that Bush is creating a job market for the working class by imposing a war where none existed less than a year ago. Let's face it - the working class will be put to work in this effort (rich people don't serve in the military) and more people in uniform will have the opportunity to step up in rank, but unfortunately more government funds will go to waste in this effort, that is except for those who work at military cemeteries.

The simple fact is that functional view of sociological theory can never be accepted as a truly valid one for the notion that people are in different classes primarily because that's how those who have special skills are matched with those jobs that pay the most money. This theory is full of holes because it implies that an American capitalist system promotes a meritocracy - where everyone truly earns his/her economic place through hard work and talent. However, as much as 30% of the revenue that is passed on in this economy is through inheritance, while so many college-educated individuals (some with Ph.D.'s) can't find work in their chosen profession. A meritocracy is a wonderful idea, but only if it is fairly applied to all classes equally. Hence, we would know then who truly earned his/her place in a capitalist system that is supposed to reward those with talent.

Another key feature of Bush's economic agenda has been reforming Social Security with private investment accounts. While Bush's scheme suggests that he was supposed to solve the financial downfall of the last two years, he diverted attention away from the crisis and moved it squarely on Saddam Hussein.

Who knows what kind of economic disaster we have waiting for us in the immediate future? "Furthermore, while young people seem more attracted to Bush's policies than skeptical elders, it is actually the younger generation of new workers who are destined to lose most, because of the cost of diverting Social Security revenues into the new individual stock accounts while still paying benefits to retirees." (Aaron and Reischauer, 2001) However, the volatility of the market at any given time makes it appear that the only ones who could possibly benefit from this type of plan would have to be the rich. The simple fact is that they have enough money in capital reserves to take risks with a program that they certainly won't need anyway. If this pattern continues, a transfer from general revenues will be needed to help with the transition's negative cash flow.

It has been posited that sometime around 2040 the government will have to borrow the money to keep everyone whole. Otherwise, it will have to raise taxes or cut Social Security benefits deeply, or both." (Graham and Mitchell 2001) In effect, Social Security defenders have been warning of this dilemma in early 2000. In fact, the liberals have been saying all along that if there is a future shortfall, the government can solve it in just this manner. The president tells us the economy is accelerating, and at least the market appears to be growing at healthy pace, but the working class families that may have had a miniscule investment several years ago, certainly can't afford to invest in a market that's as precarious as his war plan. "Bush country is not a good environment for working families." (Herbert 2003) In the real world of families trying to pay their mortgages and get their children off to college, the economy remains troubled. While analysts and the wealthy attempt to assure us that the president's tax cuts and the billions being spent on Iraq have been good for the gross domestic product, the working-class people of this country have to tighten their belt-buckle a little tighter and wade out the Bush storm.

It's a reality in which the number of Americans living in poverty has increased by three million in the past two years and those going to bed hungry every evening has increased by 400,000 over the past three years. The median household income has fallen for the past two years, and the number of dual-income families, particularly those with young children has continually declined. The administration can spin its recovery any way it wants, but working families can't pay their bills with data about the gross domestic product. They need the income from steady employment, and Bush's record on unemployment has been the worst since the Great Depression. The employment picture is far more harrowing than the news media ordinarily presents it. "Despite modest wage increases for those who are working, the unemployment rate is 6.1%, or a rough equivalent of nine million people. Millions more have become discouraged and left the labor market." (Herbert 2003) In fact, there are millions of men and women who are employed but working significantly fewer hours than they'd like.

The declines have been of a magnitude that's historically been commensurate with extremely high in some cases double-digit unemployment rates. It's not just that there are fewer family members working, people who are employed are working fewer hours. "According to government statistics, there are nearly 4.5 million people working part-time because they have been unable to find full-time work."…[continue]

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