… Is the only possible explanation as to why all this does not trigger massive protest movement in favor of better social policies and more fair redistribution (as opposed to the current massive redistribution to the top).
First off, something I have been posting about repeatedly. For all the cries of “socialist” redistribution, the real redistribution that has happened and continues to happen is redistribution from the bottom and the middle of the social ladder to the top:
Part of the explanation is the real American exceptionalism: lack of proper social safety net and equalizing redistribution (and not equality does not mean “making everybody the same):
A more general phenomenon not related to the current crisis is indeed the outlier status of the US when it comes to social safety net:
So why no social movements? I would argue a mix of puritanism (working yourself to the bone is morally good in itself, vacations are for lazy people, never mind if it costs you your health), ideology of American exceptionalism (the US is different from these European countries, so, we can’t compare them, which is just a dodge in reality), successful dumbing-down corporate-funded popular culture (see the mix of mockery and envy attached to reality programs on the rich) and a widespread belief among the majority that the US system is wide open in terms of social mobility (despite clear evidence to the contrary as the US has less social mobility than other Western countries) and that they’ll make it to the upper levels of the social ladder, accompanied by ideological identification with the upper-classes and lack of solidarity with the lower classes (related to racial and ethnic reasons).
And on the side of those who should be the first ones to mobilize for action, an easiness to be focused on identity issues (such as gay rights) as opposed to “bread-and-butter” issues (which are sooo 1980s and uncool). That is, even on the American center-left, victories on identity issues (such as the repeal of DADT or possible legalization of marijuana) which really cost nothing and do not significantly affect the system (in Habermas’s sense of the system) are enough to provide temporary appeasement so that socio-economic dismantlement can proceed apace.