The Middle Class – Part II


The middle class. The Great MC.

What is it, how is it defined? Is it growing? Shrinking? Is it, more importantly, being exploited by the rich and the powerful to enable their largess?

Is Obama right? Is it true, in fact, that the folks-the “Us”- are being used and manipulated in some grand game to keep the rich richer?

For me, the rhetoric needs substance; needs some form of validation. There has to be some means by which the idea has a backdrop to judge the truth. There has to be a definition of the middle class that we can use to see if, in fact, what is being said is true. Or not true. And for me, it comes down to two things:

  1. The earnings of the middle class.
  2. The life style, or things, that the middle class can buy.

So, let’s take a look:

First the first. Have we in fact punished the poor for the benefit of the rich? Have we reduced the prosperity of American’s in general in order to maintain the privilege of the few rich and wealthy? It doesn’t appear to be the case:

In 1967 [earliest data available] 83.7% of the families in America made less than $75,000 in constant 2008 dollars.

That percentage in 2008? 59.7%.

In other words, 16.3% of Americans were making $75k or more in 1967. In 2008, better than 4 in 10, or 40% of Americans were making that same money.

And the mean income in 2008? $79,634.00 compared to $49.606.00 in 1967. Not only has the median income gone up, but the % of people making it has gone up as well.

More people are better off.

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4 comments
  1. http://scotterb.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/gap-between-rich-and-poor.jpg?w=521&h=341
    Stats can be tricky. This chart, while not contradicting what you say, does point out that the gains in the economy have been strongly skewed to the wealthiest, meaning that the wealthiest few have benefited more than others (as their taxes have declined). The US is also not very mobile in terms of people moving into greater wealth. Still, what it all means can be debated. I do think that given our fiscal problems, it seems wrong to do things that hurt those who are struggling while not slightly increasing taxation on those who have benefited so dramatically over the past thirty years.

    • pino said:

      gains in the economy have been strongly skewed to the wealthiest, meaning that the wealthiest few have benefited more than others (as their taxes have declined).

      I don’t think that’s true. I’m compensated in far more ways than money.

      Like paid tuition.
      Vacation
      Health Care
      Sick days
      401k

      I do think that given our fiscal problems, it seems wrong to do things that hurt those who are struggling while not slightly increasing taxation on those who have benefited so dramatically over the past thirty years.

      I think it’s wrong for a rich man not to help his poorer brother.

      I think it’s theft when you make that decision for him.

  2. The rise in household income has come almost entirely because so many more married women are now holding paid full-time employment. It now typically takes two full-time earners to support a middle-class lifestyle that used to only require a single one. Being a full-time homemaker while the children are young is now a luxury where it used to be the norm.

    I don’t have a problem with a mom choosing to pursue full-time employment if that’s what she really wants. I just think it’s problematic how many women I know who would quit in a heartbeat if their salary and/or health insurance benefits weren’t absolutely necessary to meet basic needs. And these aren’t families with lavish lifestyles where it would be easy to cut back.

    • pino said:

      It now typically takes two full-time earners to support a middle-class lifestyle that used to only require a single one.

      Perhaps. But I suspect that one could do it if we went back to the requirements of our parents. For example, I grew up with a family of 6 in a 3 bedroom house. Summer vacation were camping at the county lake and eating out occurred once a month.

      I just think it’s problematic how many women I know who would quit in a heartbeat if their salary and/or health insurance benefits weren’t absolutely necessary to meet basic needs.

      Well…to be fair, I’d take a part time job at the baseball card shop if the benefits and pay would cover my expenses too….

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