Green debate

Julio Huato juliohuato at hotmail.com
Sun Nov 16 20:33:59 MST 2003


Melvin,

I agree with most of what you've written on this thread.  But let me comment
on this remark you made:

>The fact of the matter is that the majority of the working class in America
>does not vote. Perhaps 90% of the least paid, most poverty stricken workers
>do not vote or desire to enter electoral politics at any given moment. Then
>an enormous segment of our class faces historical pressure of exclusion.

The Census Bureau estimates that there were 203 million people 18 or over in
the U.S. in 2000.  This figure includes undocumented people, non U.S.
citizens (residents), military personnel, prison immates, students,
retirees, etc.  These are Census Bureau's -- not FEC's -- figures.  Of this
total, 130 million were registered (64%) and 111 million voted (55%).

As far as I know, no country in the world allows non citizens to vote.  So,
if we were to remove the non citizens (over 16 million), the registration
and voting rates would increase slightly.  In international comparisons, the
U.S. rates do not stand out.  Both poor and rich countries have higher and
lower rates than the U.S.  No discernible pattern.  Much depends on the
particular race.  Turnout rates in the U.S. were particular high in 2000 --
as are expected to be in 2004.

Let's look at "race."  There were 148 million whites 18 or over in 2000.
They are 73% of the people 18 or over.  70% of whites were registered and
60% voted.  Blacks were 24 million, 64% registered, and 54% voted.
Hispanics were 22 million, only 35% registered, 28% voted.  Asians were 8
million, 31% registered, 25% voted.

Of the total 18-and-over people (203 million), only 138 million are in the
civilian labor force, most of them working in "private industry" (104
million).  Officially unemployed 5 million.  Those in the labor force
register and vote more than those not in the labor force. Government workers
participate slightly more than all other categories.  64% of those in the
civilian labor force are rgistered and 55% voted.  Since workers proper
(that is, excluding capitalists and managers) are an overwhelming majority
of the labor force, these figures -- even if slightly discounted -- are to
be taken as indicative of the degree of workers' participation.  Roughly,
60% registration and 50% vote.

But let's say we want a clearer picture of the rate of participation of
workers.  As we know, part of those "not in the labor force" are military
personnel, prison immates, students, people who have dropped out of the
labor force because they can't find job but are not considered "unemployed,"
retirees, capitalists who don't work, etc.  The labor force includes a
relatively small number of people  in managerial positions, capitalists,
bosses, etc.  The self-employed are 10 million and they register and vote at
a slightly higher rates than those with jobs in the private industry.

We can complement this with additional data.  If we regard the working class
as the "collective worker" or the "direct producers" (Marx's formulations in
Grundrisse and Capital), then workers are represented in all levels of
educational attainment (e.g., scientists involved in productive activities
are part of the collective worker, their labor power is more costly but
their skilled labor has a larger weight in value creation).  And if use a
more restrictive definition, say "proletarians" (relatively propertyless
workers), we can say that they'll be disproportionally represented in the
lower educational attainment categories and that income data will give us a
good indication.  As a rule, the more educated people 18 or over, the more
they registered and voted in 2000.  The extremes are those with less than
9th grade (13 million,  36% registered, 27% voted) and those with advanced
degree beyond bachellor's (16 million, 79% registered, 76% voted).

The data on household income are thinner: 152 million of people 18 and over
on the database -- still a sample large enough to draw inferences.  The rule
here is also that the higher the family income, the higher the participation
rates.  Of the people with incomes under $15,000 (14 million), in other
words, the "least paid and most poverty stricken," 49% were registered and
35% voted.  Of the people with a family income of $75,000 and over (35
million), 78% were registered and 72% voted.  Taking a broader definition of
the working class ("direct producers" or "collective worker"), say, those
with incomes below $50,000 (68 million), 61% were registered and 51% voted.
With a narrower definition, say, those with incomes below $35,000 (46
million), 54% were registered and 43% voted.

There are issues with the data, but taking a rough guess and using an
in-between definition of working class, my estimate is that almost 60% of
the working class in the U.S. is registered to vote and around 50% vote in
presidential elections.  In other words, there is a significant number of
workers involved in electoral participation.  And even among the poorest
workers, the rates are significant enough to catch our attention.  So, IMO,
even without other considerations, we're talking about real political motion
here.

Julio

CB: http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/voting.html
FEC: http://www.fec.gov/elections.html

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