Why the middle-class revolt has begun

Movements in Turkey, Brazil and Iran provide a blueprint for a different kind of economic uprising.

By Jason Notte Jun 25, 2013 7:01AM
A masked protester walks away from a burning barricade near the Castelao stadium in Fortaleza, Brazil, on June 19, 2013 (© Andre Penner/AP)OK, so maybe Turkey, Brazil and Iran alone aren't "the world" and Occupy Wall Street didn't result in mass repopulation of foreclosed homes and burned-out husks of banks and big-box stores. But indulge us for a moment on this point: The world's middle class is in revolt.

Reuters columnist David Rohde -- a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who knows a thing or two about these matters -- points to the recent Taksim Square protests in Turkey, Hassan Rohani's surprising presidential election win in Iran, and economic protest in Brazil as examples of a greater middle-class uprising.

In his column on Quartz, he cautiously hints at parallels between those movements, austerity protests in Europe and the U.S. Occupy movement as examples of middle-class citizens "demanding basic political rights, accountable governments and a fairer share of resources."

There are marked differences among all of these events, and none are on par with the Arab Spring demonstrations of recent years, but Rohde suggests Americans who are a bit war-weary when it comes to global affairs should see the more recent upheaval as a positive step.

"The protesters are performing the same role as middle classes have in developed nations," Rohde says. "As their standard of living rises, so do their expectations of government."

That's certainly the case in Turkey, where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule has been bolstered by an economic boom that has enriched even those massing against him. That windfall, however, has made Turks far less passive about government attempts to curb dissent, mute news about protest and respond to citizens' grievances with overwhelming displays of force. They may not want to overthrow the government, but they want to hold it accountable.

In Brazil, the ruling Workers' Party was hailed during the country's economic boom for implementing reforms that helped the poor and middle class. With the once-thriving BRIC (for the quartet of rising powers Brazil, Russia, India and China) economy taking a turn for the worse, boom-era political corruption coming to light and a $12 billion government layout to host the 2014 World Cup drawing ire, the beneficiaries of those initial economic reforms are now taking to the streets.

With the number of university students in Brazil doubling since 2001, an educated youth movement believes the money their government has squandered should have been used to attract well-paying jobs.

In Iran, meanwhile, voters fed up with the country’s weak economy, isolation and tight-fisted conservative power structure pressed for fair elections and pushed back against the regime that crushed Iran's 2009 Green Revolution.

In all three cases, the middle class organized movements on social media and called for basic individual rights and accountable government. They came together as an extended branch of said governments and put a check on overreaching power.

So, no, the Safeways aren't ransacked and the suburbs aren't burning, but you don't need wanton destruction to build a middle-class revolt.

More on moneyNOW

Jun 25, 2013 9:16AM

Except of course in America where the Public Education system has done a wonderful job of confusing young people. We should be so proud of our youth for their success at being mediocre.  Here is your award for being stupid.  Now go out there and fail. 






Jun 25, 2013 10:49AM
. Congress no longer represents the American people.  To be elected to congress cost large amounts of money and vested interests supply this money, congressman are bought and paid for before they ever take office. Also, it is estimated that for every $1 spent by lobbyists there is a $2200 return on that dollar. The money is just too big. If you look at who benefits from our current economic policy it is the big banks, large corporations and the federal government and the vested interests they protect. Americans we are going to have to face this reality and deal with it. Sorry about that!! The big question is do we have what it takes to deal with this reality????
Jun 25, 2013 8:18AM
Both peaceful and non-peaceful protests don't work. If you really really want to change something...walk away from their game and don't support their game. Bankers can't play monopoly without you at their table. Governments can't tax things if people stop using those things.
Jun 25, 2013 9:50AM
there's always been a fight between the rich and the working man. The wealthy have an insatiable gluttonous greed and the working man wants a decent living. When the rich are victorious and accumulate too much of the wealth and the workers have too little the rich end up dead. History repeats itself. There has never been such a huge disparity between what the rich have now and the working man. The one percent owns 40 percent of america and gets 25 percent of all income. Thats up from 9 percent before free trade.dont tell me bribery of congress and the supreme court doesn't pay
Jun 25, 2013 9:22AM
The government via requiring bogus standardized testing have destroyed public schools.

Americans are too comfortable with iPad's and SUV's. My 4/2 home would be a mansion in those countrys. Americans do not have the energy to spend, or the desire to do what's needed for a real turnaround in Government. We need to leave our jobs for weeks and protest key gov. properties. Shut down businesses by not buying, or visiting. Make Walmart a deserted area, stay 50 ft. away from Starbucks, hold all money from going to any bank.

These things get noticed, not just bickering about it.

These protesters are DOING it. Not talking about it.

I'm not saying my ideas are the best ones, heck, they just came out in a few seconds, but I bet others or groups of others could organize something much more effective.

Notice I didn't say "Revolt against" or "Storm buildings." There is a difference.

Jun 25, 2013 7:52AM
The Middle-Class has been effectively revolting against itself for decades. As the elite have run an effective misinformation campaign for decades, workers across the World have literally given away the store. In order to make a point that the elite will never forget and right the many wrongs, a French styled Revolution is definitely in Order.
Jun 25, 2013 10:11AM

Democrats Revolt = Same old Socialist Crap

Republican Revolt = Same old Elitist Crap


Libertarian = No one knows yet.......... only choice for someone that really wants a change. The rest is just old crap.

Jun 25, 2013 9:12AM
Our political situation must step up and stop acting like kids and rewrite laws that snuff out monopolies set by the wealthy. Starting with our money hungry sweat shop corporations who refuse to HIRE Americans. 
Jun 25, 2013 12:42PM
Bumper sticker of the week: ''At Least The War On The Middle Class Is Going Well''
Jun 25, 2013 11:09AM
So often the term "middle class" is used to identify a group that really isn't middle class.  They seem to use this term to identify the income group that is median or average.  That is a poor use of the term "middle class".  How about we look at that group of people who are gainfully employed, have average marketable job skills, and an education beyond high school.  These are the people we should be worrying about and their employment opportunities. 
Jun 25, 2013 10:59AM

The world's middle class is being screwed, even while they have become much more productive.  Darwinian Laissez faire capitalism has run amok.  We sold out the unions, and the white collar workers could not stand up for themselves without an organization to support them, so management has stolen all the profits of increased productivity and put it in their own pockets. 

Jun 25, 2013 9:57AM

Revolt ---  Vote for a Libertarian.


What better way to let the politicians and the people that buy them know you don't like it and won't take it anymore?

Jun 25, 2013 12:06PM
It is amazing that in the USA the middle class has been robbed and has not fought back. Wall Street has ruined the future of the 99%, yet not a single individual has been brought to justice for their illegal acts.  Wake up America, everything you have worked for is now in the hands of the ultra-rich.
Jun 25, 2013 10:45AM

Democrats vote party line and Republicans vote party line = STALEMATE (no change and no revolution)


Middleclass Democrats and Republicans vote for SOMEONE ELSE - now that's a revolution


They win if we continue to allow the stalemate.

Jun 25, 2013 11:00AM

If support forms for a Libertarian in the presidential race both parties will drag that person through the mud. That person will be ignored and shunned by the media. Old corrupt power will do anything to stop the momentum.



Jun 25, 2013 10:22AM

Just imagine how hard that headline would hit the world..........


US Citizens Reject Old Political Powers and Elect Libertarian for President


What do you get the other way.......... Old Crap

Jun 25, 2013 11:17AM
Just a matter of time before it happens here.

It is frightening to think we, in America, cannot even go out to the shooting range due to the shortage of ammunition. Where has it all gone? Some say the DHS have bought it all up, while others say people are so scared of this administration that they are hoarding ammo in the event they need to protect themselves from the Federal Gov't.

That is the most frightening thing imaginable. Having the Secular Progressives make you scared of your own Gov't which is a Republic with Constitutional rights to boot, they (SP) should be ashamed of themselves for perpetrating this on the American taxpayers.

I worry this will blow up and someone will start shooting which only gives the Feds another reason to crack down on our rights.

We have a Catch-22 and are standing on the razor's edge. These are very frightening times.

Jun 25, 2013 11:04AM

#1 You can point out the problems but suggest a viable solution otherwise you are part of the problem.

#2 Problem: Accountability at the highest levels of government and corporate is increasingly nonexistent.

Solution: an independent broadcast media channel to provide transparency on major pressing issues. "independent" is the stumbling block; I would suggest opposing poitical party oversight and verification with adjudicators appointed by these same parties for contested issues.

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