What do we mean by “middle class”?

By David Rohde
December 29, 2011

Update: My apologies. I cited the wrong Census data table when describing my definition of the middle class. A corrected version is below.

Are you middle class?

For decades, praising the middle class has been a staple of American politics. Candidates vow to defend the middle class and accuse their opponents of betraying it. But what, exactly, is the “middle class”?

Since I began writing this column three months ago, readers have asked for an exact definition of the middle class. The question is a legitimate and vital one. With studies showing the American middle class in decline, understanding which policies create, expand and protect the demographic is more important than ever. But definitions vary.

Despite the incessant political lip service paid to the middle class, there is no official American government definition of the group. The middle class has been intensively studied but no political consensus exists over how it was created or how to strengthen it. Liberals credit government programs with helping create a thriving American middle class after World War II. They cite the G.I. bill, home mortgage interest deduction and state university system as examples. Conservatives credit unbridled, American free market capitalism with the feat. I believe it was both.

Within weeks of taking office, the Obama administration’s launched its own effort to help the group. Chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, the “Middle Class Task Force” was launched in January 2009 and includes the secretaries of labor, health and human services, education and commerce.

The closest the task force came to defining the middle class was a January 2010 report “Middle Class in America.” The study never gives an exact income level that is “middle class.” Instead, echoing academic studies on the subject, the document concludes that “middle class families are defined more by their aspirations than their income.”

The report lists typical American middle-class aspirations as “home ownership, a car, college education for their children, health and retirement security, and occasional family vacations.” Obtaining these goals is harder for middle class American families than it has been in decades, the report argues, because the cost of health care, higher education and housing have risen far faster than wages.

In academia, various definitions of the middle class are used. Economists generally use income as the determinant. Using census data, they break the American middle class into quintiles — groups of twenty percent — and declare the middle sixty percent of Americans the middle class. As I said in an earlier column, this is the definition I use. Based on 2010 census data, the middle class would be the sixty percent of Americans with household incomes from $20,001 $28,636 to $100,065 $79,040 a year.

Other researchers, such as sociologists, have tried to define Americans as middle class by how they self-identify. One of the odd – and I think positive – things about Americans is that they over-identify as middle class. The practice embodies an American ideal that the majority of society’s members, not the few, should benefit.

Americans themselves give varying definitions of the middle class. In a 2008 Pew survey, one-third of Americans who earned more than $150,000 a year — 11 percent of Americans overall — identified themselves as middle class. In the same survey, 40 percent of Americans who earned less than $20,000 — 25 percent — considered themselves middle class as well. The median family income in the United States was $49,445 in 2010, a lower number than many Americans think.

After Occupy Wall Street protests began this fall, The Wall Street Journal posted an online calculator that allows Americans to input their annual income and see where they stand on America’s 1 – 99 percent scale. You can try out the calculator here. Your position in America’s class hierarchy may surprise you.

In a series of interviews last week, American academics said the state of the middle class needs vastly more study. They said finding ways to aid the middle class is not possible without clearly understanding what is happening to it.

John Logan, a Brown University sociology professor, called for a large foundation to fund in-depth research on the middle class. He believes such an effort would force academics to develop a more uniform definition of middle class.

Frank Levy, an MIT economist, called for something more modest. He said surveys of Americans that gauge how many households can find affordable health care, education and housing would be more practical. Both efforts would be a step forward.

As I said in my first column, for me and many others the creation and preservation of middle classes is vital. Before becoming a columnist, I worked as a foreign correspondent and investigative reporter for The New York Times and The Christian Science Monitor for seventeen years.

Covering political, religious and ethnic conflict around the world convinced me that the single largest instrument of stability in any society is a middle class. Whatever their nationality, ethnicity or faith, members of the middle class tend to reject extremist leaders, try to make governments more effective, and often cherish the same values, particularly merit, justice and stability.

I plan to visit communities inside the United States and around the world to examine which economic policies help create middle classes to see what lessons from abroad, if any, can be applied to the United States. (So far, I’ve reported in Kentucky, Turkey, China and Wisconsin.) Along the way I hope to determine whether growing middle classes overseas inevitably mean a shrinking middle class in the United States.

In the meantime, I agree with calls for more intensive study of the middle class. A clearer understanding of what is happening to the demographic is desperately needed. The middle class can be defined. And it can be helped.

50 comments

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Well if you don’t know the definition of middle class now you certainly won’t find it in a quest today. Its gone.

Posted by ChuckCooper | Report as abusive

The bottom 20% of the American economic pile includes the fundamentally unqualified, unsatisfied, unmotivated, unemployed, and or unemployable that want $20+/hr. for jobs anyone not mentally challenged can master “on the job” in two weeks or less. The Occupy Wall Street “sound bite” of the 99% and the 1% is a hoax that simply cannot stand close scrutiny.

The “middle class is the next 60% up. The social security administration publishes average and median wages (since 1990). In 1993 the median wage was $15,690.77 and Average total compensation was $22,191.14. In 2007 the median wage was $25,737.20 and Average total compensation, 2007: $38,760.95.

That is a rise of 64% in median wage, and 74.6% in average total compensation over a period in which inflation was 42%. The increases did NOT all go to those in the top 20%. Also, people move between groups, typically earning more as they get older and gain experience and job skills; and less when they retire.

These numbers also do not include government transfer payments made to lower income people, like refundable tax credits and other federal benefits. They do not account for the higher income taxes paid by higher income people.

Most wailing and crying about economic hardship have NEVER EXPERIENCED “economic hardship”! Since the end of WW II there IS a chicken (or more) in every pot, and one or more cars in every garage (that aren’t so full of possessions that there’s no room for a car).

Today the great majority of Americans continue to enjoy a quality of life unavailable to royalty just fifty years ago. Our “poor” DRIVE and many have iPods and cable or satellite feeding their large flat screen digital TVs. Most of us are overweight from inactivity. People of every “class” are once again AT THE MALL!

Yes, America has some fiscal challenges to solve, but we will solve them. We MUST, if for no other reason than the fiscal health of the world’s economy is utterly dependent upon the fiscal health of the United States of America and it’s currency.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

@oneofthesheep:

You obviously have never suffered unemployment, or being one of the racial/sexual/ethnic underclass in the USA.

First, males over 18 are generally not eligible for public benefits other than unemployment payments, which are for a maximum of 99 weeks. For practical purposes, that is the end of public benefits for men. You probably like that. But since half the population is male, you need to rethink exactly who gets what and who pays. Need to do a little research? Go visit with the guys sleeping under freeway overpasses in cardboard boxes. If you look, they are very easy to find in every major American city.

Second, hispanics and asians are generally disliked and discriminated against by both whites and blacks. Both generally work hard because they have no choice. They also make up a disproportionate share of the “lower” class.

I seriously doubt you have lived in poverty at any time in your life, unless you are or were an alcoholic. It is no fun at all. You would be surprised at how many college educated people are under those bridges. Education is not a cure all. Nor is “hard work”, so-called. Mostly that involves limited hour toil in return for defined pay and benefits. That is very easy compared to scratching a living catch as catch can.

Mostly disdain is a disease of a privileged generation of a privileged race of a privileged class. Many people with these attitudes grew up in the world wreckage after WW2 and think their experience was typical of human experience. It certainly was not. A few people are “lucky” and think their good fortune comes from “hard work”. Foolish religion mostly. The truth is that people who work hard die young, very young, rather than live long in the suburbs.

If you want to define the middle class as the middle three quintiles by income as of the 1980′s or 1970′s, I would agree. Today, the second quintile is probably much closer, with the bottom three the lower class. And the bottom half of the second quintile is slipping badly.

We will not begin to solve our problems until we learn to think and observe rather than parrot social dogma from the “greatest” generation. All they really did was to feather their own nests.

Posted by txgadfly | Report as abusive

@ OneOfTheSheep

So by your rationale we achieve success by maintaining a standard of living set forth by the Hoover administration? Sorry as mankind’s collective achievements progress so should the standard of living for all. The level of income inequality that exists today is deplorable and the arguments you put forward are those that are only adopted by OneOfTheSheep. The rest of us aren’t as easily fooled.

Posted by rugermatt | Report as abusive

I believe that income is not necessarily the most useful way to define class. Sociologists have often distinguished between those who make their livings dealing with symbols and those who use their labor. Americans typically deny that there is a working class or a working class culture that differs from a middle class and middle class culture. For the avoidance of doubt,I’m not suggesting that one is better or superior to the other in any sense, although I’m certain some members of each class will claim their class is best in most respects. Rather, one may have two families with the same income and different tastes, values, life styles, etc. They voting and spending patterns may more resemble members of their own group than members of the other group. Nor is this to suggest as some do that the class distinction offered above limits upward mobility and aspirations for a better life how that might be defined.

Posted by RPWeber | Report as abusive

Of course sheep doesn’t tell you about how that barely keeps up with normal inflation (which doesn’t include the biggies like increased housing costs, property taxes, medical, college and fuel). Me and my wife’s income put us in the top quarter percent. But with all the college loans and the chunk taken out of our wages for insurance coverage we can barely afford a single bedroom apartment. My dad never graduated high school. My mom never went to college and was mostly a stay at home mother. Yet by my age (30) they owned a home! You can throw around any kind of stats that you want but the reality is clear; our generation has to do more to make less. It is also clear that our extra work and lower standard of living has come to mainly fuel the ultra-rich.

Posted by anarcurt | Report as abusive

@txgadfly,

I have worked for $1/hr., paid all my personal rent, etc. and paid off a $300 car in three months. Miscalculated the first week, and for 3 days only had bread and some mayonnaise; and so ate mayonnaise sandwiches. That wasn’t poverty. That was a temporary learning experience. I knew and accepted the fact that there was no money for beer or partying.

If an able-bodied person cannot find a job of SOME kind today, one reason is because potential cash employers like me are not allowed to hire unskilled help $5 or $6/hr. “as needed”. Thank the Liberals for the elimination of literally thousands of such opportunities by raising the “minimum wage”. That helps the few at the expense of the many thus denied work experience or rent and food money.

Like most working people, I have had jobs “end”. In engineering facilities design, there was a “cloud” of people that “went where the work was”. Within that group, there were the “job shoppers” who demanded (and got) high pay for average work.

They were out of work half the year in good times, but made as much as I did if you counted their unemployment benefits (26 weeks). They also tended not to manage their funds well, and yes, some of them may have spent some time under bridges in “less good times”. Choices have consequences.

I was known for the speed and quality of my work, and, because of that, I was among the first hired and last to leave. I also chose not to live from pay check to pay check…bought a modest house and never missed a payment in 25 years.

When I was 37, I had saved enough to start a non-franchise small business. Over the years, some might say I “bought a job” and worked well over 40 hours/week for several years. Good experience, paid the bills and gave me lots of deductions otherwise unavailable. No regrets.

I have hired hispanics, asians, whites and blacks. Those “ready, willing and able” to work did fine. Those with excuses for poor performance did not. I paid for results, not excuses. Each had to “pull their weight” regardless of “other circumstances”. There was never a surplus of the capable and motivated, so some times I did not hire.

The only “thinking and observing” necessary is getting up on time, getting to work on time, and making absolutely sure the services rendered are worth your expense to your employer. The work standards I set for myself always far exceeded what anyone would dare to ask of me.

You have no idea what “Hard work” is. It isn’t “limited hour toil”. It isn’t typically something done in a heated and air conditioned building. Americans live with less effort and more comfort today than at any time in past history.

Just scratching out a living on a subsistence farm in the thirties was “hard work” from dawn to dark. Nobody promised easy. Don’t expect all times to be good times.

“Hard work” is what the people that built Hoover Dam out in the desert in the late thirties did. “Hard work” is twelve hour shifts seven days a week like was common during WW II. “Hard work” is Chinese building a B-29 runway breaking rocks with hand held hammers, distributing the gravel with human powered carts and leveling with hand rakes. In the overall scheme of things “hard work” made people stronger.

More than a few died “before their time” because they smoked. Choices have consequences. You need to put your comments in proper context to see how really silly they really are.

Incidentally, if you don’t “feather your own nest”, who do you expect to do it? The government?

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

i believe it is not possible to compare the middle class of my parents (80′s) with current. back in the 50′s you could buy a house for $10K, a car (one needed) for $1.5K, groceries were relatively cheap, and medical care was inexpensive (and covered), and you were comfortable making $7-8K a year. now it takes two salaries to keep up, houses cost 200K, cars (2 now) cost $25K each, companies have pushed their pension costs onto us (401K), med insurance is a joke, and i feel like i’m struggling at $145K gross to make a better life for my family than i had growing up. and i’m in the top 12%! something smells bad and i can’t put my finger on it. i do believe the economy is picking up after the gop trashed it during the bush2 yrs (just picked a fight with the righties), our 401K’s are much improved after the 7000 point race to the bottom th elast two yrs of bush2′s second term. i just want to feel like there are people running the show that give a crap about people, not just in lining their own pockets.

Posted by jcfl | Report as abusive

@jcfl,

Well, let’s try anyway. That $10,000 house would have been a two bedroom one of about 900 sq. ft. with a single car garage (if it had one). That $10,000 adjusted for inflation would be $93,871.37.

Is that 900 sq. ft. house available for that? If it’s in an area that appreciated, no. Today there’s decent landscaping, mature trees, maybe a shopping center nearby, bus service, convenient supermatkets, etc; and so you pay a premium for that, more if it’s in a good school district. It has also almost certainly been enlarged, but it’s NOT a McMansion.

That $1,500 car would cost $14,080 today. The cars you can buy new for that today are safer, more reliable, require less service, get up to 40,000 miles on a set of tires and get twice the mileage on a gallon of today’s “gas”.

If, instead of a NEW car, you always bought a two-year car just off lease, you would still have a longer warranty than in 1950. Such a used car would have cost between $18,300 and 28,000 new two years ago (more car for the money).

Groceries cost about the same (adjusted for inflation) or less. In 1950, that “chicken in the pot” cost twice as much in purchasing power (per pound) as one costs today. Most people in the fifties did NOT earn pensions or have a 401K. Medical insurance and medical care were inexpensive because they were primitive. Dental care was in it’s infancy and most working then would eventually lose all their teeth. That $7,000 a year would today be $75,097.

A majority today live just fine on much less. It’s pretty obvious if you have children that the second income is not all “gravy”…there are associated expenses; so you deduct 50% of that second income for that otherwise unnecessary second car (payment, insurance, gas, maintenance), get little benefit from the duplicate medical insurance and you come up with $112,645 gross.

Nobody “running the show” is even aware of you, and that is as it should be. It seems to come as a great shock to many today that life isn’t about “you”!

If you’re “struggling” at $145K gross you have totally unrealistic expectations, a hopelessly inflated sense of entitlement, and have bought like there’s no tomorrow in the recent past (presuming you’re still making payments or don’t have a zero credit card balance). It’s those making less than you with your mind set that are in trouble today. Choices have consequences. Suck it up!

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

@jcfl,

I make $25,000 a year and I do just fine. I walk several miles to work every morning so I don’t need a gym membership to stay trim and I don’t have the expense of a car (payments, insurance, maintenance/repairs, registration, etc). I don’t have a big screen TV or cable. The high speed internet on my five year old $400 laptop just fine.

When you go to the grocery store, don’t buy anything that is brand name. Go to the bulk food section and buy a 25lb bag of brown rice,a 25lb bag of beans (I prefer kidney beans), a 50lb bag of whole wheat flour, and a 50lb bag of sugar. Then get some salt and yeast, canned and frozen vegetable when they are sale (stock up), and fresh fruit. Milk and eggs are cheap. Buy meat when it is on manager’s special and freeze it. You can feed 4 people for less then $200 a month this way. It’s not flashy but you will be healthy, and if you’re an average American you’re overweight. This is better eating then the majority of the global population.

OneOfTheSheep is right.

This is America. Your choices are what make you rich or broke. I have never made more then I do now and I have money in my IRA, 401(K), savings account, and checking account.

Posted by 1stMartain | Report as abusive

@oneofthesheep:

I know how to work. I have done “hard work” and I have done hard work too. Have you? Really? Dug ditches with shovels? Swung a 9 pound hammer all day? Don’t arrogantly tell me I do not know hard work. I do. And I have done work that takes intelligence, application, and many years for mere proficiency.

To see what was available to Royalty, visit a good museum or one of their old Palaces. The poor live like Royalty fifty years ago! What nonsense.

Posted by txgadfly | Report as abusive

@txgadfly,

You misquoted me two times in two attempts. At least you’re consistent.

With regard to “hard work”, I questioned YOUR apparent thoughts attempting to redefine that simple concept. Your personal experience is irrelevant if it leads you to illogical and unsupportable conclusions and not wisdom.

You said: “”Education is not a cure all. Nor is “hard work”, so-called. Mostly that involves limited hour toil in return for defined pay and benefits. That is very easy compared to scratching a living catch as catch can.”

Out of this mismash I understood you to be stating that “hard work”…is very easy…”. That’s simply ridiculous, so I said so and gave pertinent examples of “hard work”. I put the spot light on YOU spouting nonsense, so don’t try to swing the beam my way to escape it.

I did not say “The poor live like Royalty fifty years ago”. I said: “Today the great majority of Americans continue to enjoy a quality of life unavailable to royalty just fifty years ago.”

In the cold parts of Europe they STILL don’t have decent heating. A stone castle in a cold, damp climate is NOT comfortable in the sense we are accustomed to. In summer, Americans cool the whole house! We enjoy entertainment options via cable and satellite of a quantity and quality NO ONE had in the sixties, plus cell phones, iPods, etc.

I stand by what I said responding to YOUR nonsense in both cases.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

@txgadfly,

I seriously doubt you know what hard work is. Don’t feel bad most Americans don’t. Doing manual labor for a few days or a year or two isn’t hard work.

In 2004 I went to western Kenya on a humanitarian mission with my church to help install modern wells in six rural villages. When you see people doing subsistance farming with no machinery for their entire lives to barely feed their children one or two meals a day, then you will have seen hard work.

It was that experience of seeing those people in huts with no electricity or running water, literally breaking their bodies to provide for them and their families, that changed my life and made me realize what is a luxury and what is a need.

By American standards I don’t make a lot of money but I wouldn’t never say that I work hard for it either. That’s just disrespectful to the billions of impoverished people around the world who do.

As for those museums, I’ve been to those. All I saw was a bunch of junk that they had laying around. You can’t eat gold or jewels. Fancy clothes don’t keep you any warmer then a simple wool jacket. I didn’t see were any MRI’s, proficient heart surgeons, anti-biotics, medicine for high cholesterol, the internet, cell phones, houses with good insulation to assist the efficient heat or air conditioning(non-existent back then) in climatize the residence or any of the other countless luxuries the poor in America benefit from today through the government social programs paid for by my, and every working Americans, taxes.

And yes I have lived in government assisted housing. I don’t think I’ve seen so many big screen TV’s in my life.

Posted by 1stMartain | Report as abusive

Middle class are those people that:

1. can cover their variable costs (food+ other consumables)
2. can cover fixed costs (like rent or housing credit)
3. have a bit of money left to spend (for a vacation or a car or education for their child)

The lower class can not afford point 3 and in some cases not even 1. or 2.

Posted by Qeds | Report as abusive

Mr. Rhode, assuming you read these comments, I’d suggest defining the middle class in precise detail is much less efficient than starting with the definition of “home ownership, a car, college education for their children, health and retirement security, and occasional family vacations.”

If you look at first world societies, for example, the Nordic countries, France, Germany, and so on, then look at the US, the main difference is that in the US the political elites do not support this simple definition. They routinely push policies that promote the opposite.

To take one example, all cost inputs for business in the US are left free to rise except one, wages. The minimum wage should be adjusted for inflation like every other cost input businesses have to deal with yet it stands around $8 an hour when it should be $17-18 an hour. Endless vanity mergers also destroy jobs which creates more people competing for jobs than there are jobs. Same dynamic applies, of course, to offshoring jobs.

The key is that there are viable policy alternatives to support the definition of the middle class as “home ownership, a car, college education for their children, health and retirement security, and occasional family vacations.” And these policies have been in place for decades overseas, even some of them here in the US (e.g. Social Security and Medicare). The solutions are well known and thoroughly vetted.

But the US will not support these goals any time soon if the past few decades is an indication. Obama, for example, talks big about the middle class but could not be bothered to push for the Employee Free Choice Act which would have helped to restore the balance between labor (and it’s right to a fair return for its work) and management. Currently, management holds most or all of the cards.

We know how to fix this problem. If, indeed, we as a country care about the middle class. But I don’t see that happening any time soon given the policies pushed by politicians of both parties and even some comments here. Helping the middle class, among other requirements, includes a realization that not everyone in a society is healthy, intelligent, lucky, educated, and whatever else is required to be a high-functioning member of society. It also includes the realization that, if we are so lucky, not everyone is like us and those people should not be made to suffer for the difference. We need less personal arrogance and presumption and more awareness that we are a society with a responsibility to help everyone in at least a minimal way to live a decent live. I don’t see that happening.

Posted by FredFlintstone | Report as abusive

I think the mis-definition of middle class is a way of making the poorer classes believe that they are the richer ones. Few in America conceive of the wealth of the very top, and hence do not challenge it.
The upper class can afford never to work, the middle can afford to higher others to do the work ( shop keepers, business owner) and the lower classes need to be hired. Lumpen proletariat have trouble finding work.
To mess with the traditional definitions is demagoguery.

Posted by larf | Report as abusive

It’s hard to understand middle class without first understanding “class”. Class is not something you choose. You cannot choose to be “upper class”. Donald Trump cannot “choose” to be lower class though his roots might be there and his true class might be “nouveau riche”. The middle class originated in the middle ages when European serfs left for the cities and established themselves as tradesmen. They were neither lords nor serf. They were the modern day equivalent of small business owners. While they might be wage earners while learning as journeymen, they eventually became business owners. Most in the current so-called “middle class” are basically wage-earning “working class”, a class that ballooned after the Industrial Revolution and its need for factory labor. I wonder why it is so hard to consider oneself as a member of the “working class”. If you earn a wage, you are working class.

Posted by watcher8 | Report as abusive

@Fred,

You suggestion is that the United States join Europe in unsustainable indolence. Americans, as a group work longer than Europeans and produce more. That is our economic strength. I, as an American, do NOT want European societal priorities adopted or imposed here.

Europe has not ACHIEVED a society in which “home ownership, a car, college education for their children, health and retirement security, and occasional family vacations.” is enjoyed by a majority. So your plea is just more “Occupy” pie-in-the-sky wishes you want everyone to embrace and chase.

The $8 minimum wage already eliminates MANY jobs that would otherwise exist. The CCC and WPA didn’t pay that kind of money, but it allowed those willing and able to work to find employment that benefited society and kept beans on the table at home. Today many young people have no experience or marketable skill, and are not NEEDED in the work force at $8/hr. when they might well be at $5 or $6.

All that raising the minimum wage to $17-$18/hr. does is accelerate the movement of production jobs overseas and the automation of jobs here. Workers overseas do not get the “cradle to grave” benefits you would impose on companies trying to survive here long enough to make an honest profit. Machines do not need homes, a car, college education, children, get sick, retire, have “family emergencies”, or take vacations…all expenses to an employer.

Labor, like everything else, is essentially a “supply and demand” situation when it comes to wages. Today America has a surplus of the uneducated, the unqualified, the unskilled, the unmotivated. This is the fastest growing demographic in the country. We are a society that has yet to accept the personal responsibility of only bringing into the world those we are willing and able to equip with the tools they will need to be productive in our society.

Wealthy as it is, America does not have sufficient wealth nor it it likely to make it a priority to “provide” in the manner you suggest for everyone born here or that sneaks into this country illegally. Welcome to reality.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

@Fred,

“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

That is what Europe is learning right now. The countries with the largest social entitlement (there’s that word again) programs (in relation to GDP) are having the most financial trouble. Everyone must provide for themselves, which is very easy. Most of what people spend their money on are wants, not needs.

Americans always bemoan the cost of health care but they spend most of their money on things that they want and don’t leave any left over for what they need. Americans pay professional athletes (collectively) tens of billions of dollars (go to USA Today to see team salaries per sport). Americans buy cars based on social status and not need. They buy homes based on social status and not need. They purchase clothes based on social status and not need. Need I go on?

Americans just need to get their priorities straight and realize that they may not be able to buy the newest iphone or big screen TV as soon as it comes out. They will have to save for consumer purchases. Save for retirement. Save for health care.

When people turn to the government for their needs I am reminded of all the books I’ve read about bread lines in the USSR.

If we can’t trust the government to balance the budget today, how could you trust them to provide for you all of the things you need on a daily basis. And do you want them to?

Posted by 1stMartain | Report as abusive

@1stMartain,

You got it!

Americans today can have ANYTHING they want. They just can’t have EVERYTHING they want!

With the possible exception of Saudi “royalty”, there has never existed a society financially capable of doing that.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

I was born into the middle class in 1946. My parents were a secretary and a salesman. We moved from a two-room apartment in the Bronx to a nice little ranch house in Bergen County, N.J., just in time for me to start kindergarten.

Today, after excessive schooling to which I would never again subject myself, I rent a tiny place where I live alone on Social Security, which is $1350/month. I worked as secretary most of my life, but the titles sounded higher. The work was not. A secretary in my mother’s generation could have done it all, and with just a “business course” diploma from high school.

So I am lower class. I don’t mind, but it certainly wasn’t the plan. On the calculator linked to this article, I scored 20 percent. No surprise there. But I imagine there are families trying to get by on what I have for myself, and I cannot imagine how they manage.

Posted by NBE | Report as abusive

The economic system of the United States is presently failing the majority of American citizens. The middle class is shrinking. The real problem is the continual and relentless concentration of the wealth of the nation into fewer and fewer hands at the very top of our society. The real problem is the inequality of wealth distribution in the United States and the inequality of income ditribution in the United States. According to the CIA’s World Fact Book, 99 of 140 countries surveyed have a more equitable distribution of income than the United States.* According to Politifact, as of 2010 the net worth of the nation’s 400 wealthiest Americans was higher than the net worth of the bottom 50 percent of the nation’s households.** That is the top 400 individuals have more wealth than the bottom 155 million Americans. The top 1% of U.S. of households now control about 43% of the nation’s privately held financial wealth and they own about 35% of the nation’s privately held net wealth.*** Between 1979 and 2007 the income of the richest 1% of American households rose 275% while the income of the poorest 20% grew 18% over the same period.**** Since the eighties when supplly side trickle-down voodoo economics came into vogue the federal taxes on the super wealthy, as a trend, have been decreasing, in fact the top federal income tax rate has just about been cut in half since the seventies. With the tax code we have been helping put more and more of the nations wealth into fewer and fewer hands at the very top. With this hyper concentration of the nation’s wealth, much of this wealth is now hoarded and/or used only for speculation. It is no longer available to reinvest in the real economy, such as rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. This continual transfer of the nation’s wealth to the already very-wealthy at the very top of society is not healthy for the economy and it is not healthy for the country.

Posted by Dalton | Report as abusive

@Dalton,

The American economic system is not failing the marjority of American citizens, the majority of American citizens are failing themselves. The super wealthy in this country created goods or services that the rest of the country’s citizens wanted and paid for; thus transfering their potential wealth to the top 1%. If the rest of the American public want to become wealthy then they can take advantage of the same lowered tax code that the wealthy do by investing their money instead of spending it on the goods and services that the top 1% offer.

Altering the tax code so that growth is stunted, by reducing the amount of money available for investment, will not make the bottom 155 million Americans wealthy because the bottom 155 million Americans will not alter their spending habits. Just like you can lead a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink. You can lead people to opportunities to make money through investments but you can’t force them to invest. You don’t need a college degree to understand mortgages, car loans, compound interest, equity or debt investments, or any other personal financial topic. You just need to foster an interest in personal finances and check out a few books from the library (more free education provided by the government) and read, take notes, and possibly ask a few questions from professionals (discount brokerages like scottrade.com offers free consultation and seminars to account holders).

Sadly most Americans are more interested in sports and the latest fashions then they are in their personal finances. That is why they took out mortgages that they couldn’t afford and rack up credit card debt as if the world is ending tomorrow.

I do not make a lot of money (by American standards) nor do I have a great deal of formal education (by American standards) but I do take time aside everyday to review, strategize, and educate myself on my personal finances. That is why my net worth is higher then most Americans my age even though I have a lower income for the average American my age with my education level.

Moving to an economic policy based on socialist/communist principles will not make the poor wealthy. Education with its practical application will make the poor wealthy.

Posted by 1stMartain | Report as abusive

@Dalton,

It is not the JOB of the American government to create “equality” of income OR “equality” of wealth. Our founding fathers would have aghast at any suggestion that such become a responsibility of the federal government.

It would destroy the very foundation of this country as we know it. If you want more income, you’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way. Figure out how to EARN it. I don’t know where this “Occupy” mind set has bubbled up from, but it’s time to skim such scum from our “melting pot” and toss it in the dump where it belongs.

No one with “wealth” can afford to see it’s purchasing power erode at the rate the country has been increasing the money supply. They MUST “put it at risk” just to stay where they are. These people are NOT stupid.

Maintaining and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure was once and needs again to be a federal priority. It would, however, be foolish to pay the necessary premium under rules that require only union labor. This work needs to be contracted out under a unrestricted competitive bidding process.

I’ll agree that for too long our “representatives” have paid more attention to special interests than to their job of running the country. I’ll agree that circumstances dictate increased taxation on high incomes; but NOT until our elected representatives reach a consensus as to what kind of country we want going forward from the next election.

They must then, in order to get our financial house in order, figure out how to separate national needs from national wants and prioritize available funding. To give Congress more tax revenue before this process is to try to put out a fire with gasoline.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

It is clear that the “system” is directing most of the country’s money to certain pockets. How is it possible that a (healthy) bread in a supermarket is at least 4$? If we would drop the minimum wage, that could be an hour of low-paid work to just buy a bread! (Compare: in France a similar bread does not exceed 1 euro and minimum wage is about 7-8 euro). So, if you pay that $4 for a bread, where does the money go? Raw materials (ingredients) probably make up for no more 10 or 20 cents. What about the rest? Legal departments with expensive lawyers to defend the company against stupid lawsuits, lots of corporate executives, expensive insurance premiums, insane marketing expenses…what else? The problem really is that everything in the US has become ridiculously expensive and the lower class as well as most of the middle class incomes have not gone up sufficiently, while the top 20% or so has seen there incomes skyrocket. Large corporations are sucking too much money out of the people’s pockets. Cell phones, cable subscriptions, insurance premiums, and many other things are extremely overpriced. Another issue is of course the standard of living that is seen as normal in the US: stand-alone home, inefficient heating system, no public transport, so need several cars, $200 a month cable subscription (compare: about 30-40 euro in Europe). I am in the middle class and I am slashing my spending massively. If a price does not make sense to me, I don’t buy it. Some things I have no choice and I have to buy them, even though I think these items are massively overpiced. I was just offered a $500 a year service contract for my heating system. You would need to be in the top 10% bracket to be able to afford to have your heating maintained and repaired when it breaks! Weird. A next government should focus on spending of the lower and middle class and overall wealth, not just focus on the people with money and power. But I am very pessimistic here: only people with power will get what they want, the rest will loose out.

Posted by Fairness101 | Report as abusive

I guess it boils down to whether their is a capacity for people to earn a certain amount giving them scope to afford what it is that defines them as middle class. Loss of this capacity with rising prices must relegate those who are middle class to a poorer position and in the extreme unemployment. Everybody would like the benefits of a middle class position but there are no jobs for them and low income earners just barely get by. Only the rich can afford the luxury of temporal levity secure in the knowledge that they can survive.

Posted by Ceorl | Report as abusive

Middle Class: Not so poor as to be unable to effect a change in one’s change, yet no so wealthy as to be free of financial burden.

Posted by SanPa | Report as abusive

There appears to be a lot of myth here being passed off as fact.

On the topic of ‘it takes 2 incomes to make ends meet….’

We live much better today than we did 50 years ago and we buy a lot more goods and services.  The truth is that a family today can live on one income just as they did back then, but that family would have to be willing to live the way folks did 50 years ago – smaller homes, one car, no flat screens or cable or smart phones, the list of things we call ‘necessities’ today is long.

On the shrinking middle class, I actually agree.

I’ve studied household income data published by the US Census which shows the percentage of middle and lower income households has declined over the last 40+ years and the percentage of higher income households has grown.  Bottom line, Americans are becoming more prosperous over the long haul.

Posted by jambrytay | Report as abusive

There appears to be a lot of myth here being passed off as fact.

On the topic of ‘it takes 2 incomes to make ends meet….’

We live much better today than we did 50 years ago and we buy a lot more goods and services.  The truth is that a family today can live on one income just as they did back then, but that family would have to be willing to live the way folks did 50 years ago – smaller homes, one car, no flat screens or cable or smart phones, the list of things we call ‘necessities’ today is long.

On the shrinking middle class, I actually agree.

I’ve studied household income data published by the US Census which shows the percentage of middle and lower income households has declined over the last 40+ years and the percentage of higher income households has grown.  Bottom line, Americans are becoming more prosperous over the long haul.

Posted by jambrytay | Report as abusive

@jambrytay,

I understood and agreed with the first part of your post.

I do not, however, understand how the sixty percent comprising the American middle class can be shrinking at a time we agree Americans, in general, “are becoming more prosperous over the long haul”. Can you further explain this?

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

OneOfTheSheep-

I should first offer a reminder that, as mentioned in the article, there is no standard definition of middle class.  I used US Census data that shows the total number of households in various constant dollar income groupings. I created 3 income groups – low was less than 25k, middle was 25k to 75k (I also did a middle that was 25k to 100k), and high was greater than 100k. I then looked at the numbers of households over time fitting into each group.  The data shows that over the 40 years of census data, the percentage of households falling into the lower and middle income groups (middle being both the 25 to 75 and the 25 to 100 groupings) are trending smaller and the numbers of households falling into the upper income groups is trending higher i.e. households are becoming more prosperous.

If you’re interested in the details, I have published my work at http://unrepentantcapitalist.blogspot.co m/ see the August 21, 2010 posting.

Posted by jambrytay | Report as abusive

@jambrytay,

OK, I follow your statements, but not your conclusion. If the number of households is viewed in any given period as 100%, the migration of some households from below 100K to above it is of only academic interest. It certainly has no relationship to the financial health of the American “middle class”, however it is defined.

It would be quite possible, and certainly not true, that the top 1% got all of that “increase” in prosperity. Is it possible to dissect and reassemble your research so as to show a more useful and relevant perspective? I am also interested in why the actual or potential “difference” between the 25-75K and 25-100K income groups was considered significant.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

the migration of some households from below 100K to above it is the point…a decreasing number of middle class households and an increasing number of high income households says the middle class is doing better….they were middle income and now they’re high income.

The census household income data isnt cut granular enough to make any conclusions about the top 1 percent. I personally think the hue and cry over the top 1 percent is overblown and only serves to pi$$ people off.

To your other point, whether you define the middle class as having an income of 25k to 75k or 25k to 100k, the trend is the same..fewer middle class and more high income.

Posted by jambrytay | Report as abusive

@jambrytay,

Again, I can follow and even agree with your statements; but let’s go back to the title of this article “What do we mean by “middle class”? You never said whether your figures were gross or net income. I don’t find that in census data either. Pity.

My personal experience is that people with SMALL businesses that are sole proprietorships, say up to $300,000 annual gross, can easily and accurately see themselves as “middle class”. Their net, or “take-home pay” (after deducting business expenses) may well approximate that of an employee of $50,000 to $100,000 gross on an IRS return.

That’s why I prefer to describe the “middle class” as those in the 20% to 80% “take-home”. Those percentages can stay relatively unchanged as the American “standard of living” increases. U.S. Census figures show that in 1990 18.1% of the population received $25K or less, 63% from $25K-100K and 18.9% from 100K up. In 2009, that became 17.8%, 56% and 26.2%, respectively.

That would seem to indicate that the “middle class, as defined by a 20%-60%-20% “split moved upward from a range estimated as “To 27K”, “27K-94K” and “$94K up” and 10.5% overall to “To 28K”, “28K-110K” and “110K up”. This would NOT support your conclusion that the middle class is shrinking in either size or income.

I certainly admit that the economic adversity that started in 2008 and continues today (and probably for the indefinite future) may well be shrinking the “middle class”. It is probably established historical fact that the “middle class” ALWAYS shrinks during “bad times”. I fear that this time such shrinkage is likely to continue indefinitely.

It is quite clear that the level of comfort and affluence of Americans of ALL classes (as compared to the rest of the world) has increased dramatically in the last fifty years. There should be some comfort in recent studies that suggest personal comfort and satisfaction pretty much level out from the $75,000/yr. level on up and the number of Americans achieving that is definitely on the rise.

This also proves that the OWS “1% vs. the 99%” is a myth intended from the beginning to distort reality and, as you say, pi$$ those off of limited intelligence or short attention span. No one else ever believed it.

It’s been a pleasure.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

David,
Two thirds of Americans are obese and one third is overweight. Given that historcally poverty lines have been defined by availability of food/calories etc., would that mean the “fit” and non-obese population would be qualified as the “middle-income” or middle class? Or as is most commonly believed, the “rich” have more access to organic food, better gyms and a generally healthier lifestyle as opposed to the mass-produced HFCS-enriched fattening food and cheap gas/car-oriented lifestyle making America obese?
Can you please include this as well in your agenda while trying to find out more quantitative attributes of qualifying the middle class?

Posted by zephyr100 | Report as abusive

If you always define the middle class as the middle 60% chunk in the 20/60/20 break-out, then by definition, the middle class will never shrink or grow.

Posted by jambrytay | Report as abusive

If you always define the middle class as the middle 60% chunk in the 20/60/20 break-out, then by definition, the middle class will never shrink or grow.

Posted by jambrytay | Report as abusive

If you always define the middle class as the middle 60% chunk in the 20/60/20 break-out, then by definition, the middle class will never shrink or grow.

Posted by jambrytay | Report as abusive

The answer is really simple. The American middle class is a personal state of mind, which is why attempts to define it numerically will never succeed.

DUH!

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive

@”hard work”:

The phrase is common. Who has not heard it over a thousand times? It always denotes disdain for the work of others while elevating the speaker’s past efforts. Generally, it means nothing except that “my dog is better than your dog”. Disparaging nonsense. This is what I mean when I refer to “hard work”. It is not hard. It is simply a claim to moral superiority.

Generally it is a phrase I usually hear from people born between 1930 and 1945. Somehow it is attractive to the generation just a bit too young to have participated in WW2. It is more of a mark of a generation than it is a meaningful phrase.

Then there is real hard work. By this I mean physical labor of the kind that regularly results in cuts and bruises. I mean work that is not guaranteed to continue past the present moment. I mean work where the payment is, usually, in cash and comes with no benefits of any kind. Day labor. All it gets you is your daily bread if you eat cheaply. It is done by the people for whom life is “short, brutal, and nasty”. It is available in virtually all countries.

Creating financial wealth means either taking risks with your own money and labor, or tricking someone else out of theirs, or inheriting it. Sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes we correctly make a shrewd guess. Usually we make bad ones, learn, and keep trying. But this kind of persistence is not really hard work. It is just painful.

In general, it IS the business of American Government to enable and encourage prosperity overall. It is not the business of Government to accept money for personal benefit from some group, and in return to manipulate law and financial definitions with the purpose of enriching their benefactors. That is the classical definition of a bribe. Quid pro quo. This for that.

Posted by txgadfly | Report as abusive

@txgdfly,

You have helped me to understand your point of view and why it is different than mine. Thank you!

First, you choose to believe that anyone that IS NOT POOR has no meaningful personal reference as to what being “poor” means. Well, in the sense that each experience “means” something different to each of us depending on their life experience and resulting perspective, I would agree that YOU see “poor” differently from everyone else. That does not make your “position” right. It just makes it different.

In my opinion the primary “benefit” of experiencing being “poor” in any manner is to take away the determination, motivation and priorities to make very sure that you do not live “poor” and die “poor”. There are people with more money than brains that live “poor” and die “poor”.

I have done work on occasion for cash “under the table”. I still ate what I wanted, when I wanted and ate well. Creating financial wealth largely involves a conscious choice to live on less in the present so (if things work out) you can have more in the future.

In the game of wealth, as in the game of life, there are winners and losers. Some play well, some poorly. Some are lucky, some not so much. If there is pain, suck it up like everyone else. Your envy and anger at all who have more than you have or want to have, regardless of the source, is as evident as it is inappropriate. It will deny you each and every possible satisfaction life has to offer, and there are many.

I categorically disagree with any expectation that the American government OWES you a “minimum level” of personal achievement or financial security. It only owes you a reasonably equal OPPORTUNITY to better yourself and/or ACHIEVE “financial security” in your own way. It is via such OPPORTUNITY that prosperity is “encouraged and enabled”, but personal effort and “skin in the game” is still necessary.

I am not going to try to defend the common and legal practice of lobbying any more than I would try to defend why American society need so many lawyers; particularly in Congress, the Supreme Court, State and local governments. Life could become boring without such ongoing minor challenges and dragons to slay. Cheers!

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

Those not paying a fair share of federal taxes are either too poor or too rich to belong to the middle class.

Posted by SanPa | Report as abusive

Tne great thing about “middle class” is that it so poorly defined. Good statistics on the matter would only help to generate more goverment programs, raise taxes, and play into the hands of the statists.

Posted by alconnelly | Report as abusive

could we please cut down on the use of quotation marks – it’s getting irritating and adds nothing to the sentiments given.

Posted by jcfl | Report as abusive

I live in a suburb of NYC where a family of four with an income of $120,000 would probably be considered just hanging on to the bottom of middle class. Having lived here and in Florida, my family of 4 was probably living an upper middle class life at our $105,000 per year total salaries and no state income tax. Our rent and utilities on a 3BR house was a whopping $1,300 per month (and we could have purchased a home and paid only slightly more including taxes). Our childcare expenses for full-time, high-quality day care was just under $9,000 and the after-school program and great summer camp cost a total of $4,500. My commute was 6 miles–maybe a 1.5 gallons of gas a week ($280 a year, with two of us working, $540 per year). Dinner out for a family of 4 was, even at a better-than-chain place, $50-$60 at most.

Fast forward five years. We live just outside NYC, and our income is slightly more than double, about $212,000 per year. Our mortgage, taxes and utilities on a 3BR house top $4,000 per month. Our day care expenses are nearly $16,000 per year. After school and just-ok camp (because the great ones cost over $600 a week!) cost about $7,000 a year. My commute is about 45 minutes door-to-door and my husband’s is an hour… our train ticket costs about $5,500 a year. Dinner out at a cheap chain restaurant costs $50-60 for the four of us. And NY state taxes… don’t get me started. Plus, since we’re now high-earners by federal standards, and because I occasionally bring in a few extra thousand dollars for freelance work, we’re hit by the AMT. Granted, we pay a little more on all fronts to live closer to the city, but that’s a quality of life issue so we can see our children (and we still live far further than when we were in Florida).

Even though our income has doubled, our expenses have more than doubled and we honestly feel we’re not nearly as well off financially. We feel middle class and, frankly, at the bottom of the middle of the middle class. There’s enough money to pay the bills and put a little aside, but vacations are now mostly at the homes of family and we’re not saving at the same rate we were when we had half the income.

So it makes sense to me that middle class is something hard to define. If we were living in Florida and earning what we do now, we’d be truly among the rich. In NY, we’re not even close, many of our friends in the same income range are sometimes just getting by… and to feel upper middle class would take another 100k in income.

I know, I know, sure sounds tough… thick with sarcasm. But it really is a different number in different places.

Posted by JMer | Report as abusive

What many of you on both sides of the argument are forgetting (more particularly those of you parroting Beck and O’Reilly) is that the deck has been stacked against the middle class. When I was growing up, the middle class lifestyle was to own a car and a home, have a good-paying job (defined as paying the bills with leftover for savings and investment), send your kids to college, and retire after being with the same company for 40 years or more.

I obtained an M.S. degree and rose to middle management by working hard using my God-given talents: writing and analysis. Not everyone is physically able to wield a hammer or Neanderthal enough not to pursue a career using one’s IQ. I was with a major company that had never had layoffs in its over one century of existence — until the middle of the Reagan administration. Our first was in 1985 and then it became a bi-yearly event. My department was finally hit and hit hard. they brought in a hatchet man from outside who did not know the business, but whose sole purpose was to reduce white collar IT staff.

When I took two labor relations courses and a Navy ROTC management course in grad school, white collar layoffs were unheard of. We studied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Skinner’s positive reinforcement. My professor’s own book on labor relations stated that one had the same rights (such as due process) within one’s place of employment as in the real world; now, if your employer wants to install video cameras in your bedroom, they can.
Layoffs were only a last resort to save a business, not a management tool to increase executive pay.

A lot of unemployed are unemployed because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yes, they choose to work for a harlot’s son that would sell them down the river, but when an entire office closes for offshoring to India or China and people are applying for jobs for which there are 4-5 applicants per opening, how is that their own fault?

Fox (pretend)News fans like OneoftheSheep and 1Martain (supposed to be Martian and they flunked spelling?)are fond of repeating the Ayn Rand mantra justifying the Ubermensch as deserving and everyone else a pox, but Rand was an atheist who adored psychopaths. Read the Bible; the early Christians gave from each according to their ability and to each according to their need (Acts 2:44-45 and 4:33-35; Marx was a plagiarist).

Once we stop giving tax breaks for offshoring, the middle class can thrive again. And, think on this: even though Chinese workers are paid poorly by the American elite who employ them, their tax dollars fund Chinese missiles and aircraft carriers aimed at us – how is this not treason on the part of the offshorers?)

Posted by bearzee | Report as abusive

To speak of a middle class, one needs a definition or list of characterizing attributes, but to use only economic designations makes it a trivial definition. There is always a middle. What would further our understanding now is to identify the central set of features used in the past (pick a time) to describe middle class membership, then track the changes in those features to the present. A refinement on this project would be to try first to arrive at a standard set of attributes (for middle classness) which could be applied to both the present and the chosen past time.

Posted by bcrawf | Report as abusive

In reply to “One of the Sheep”:

======================================== ===========

You state:

“It is not the JOB of the American government to create “equality” of income OR “equality” of wealth. Our founding fathers would have aghast at any suggestion that such become a responsibility of the federal government.”

======================================== =============

I reply:

Really? Our “Founding Fathers” were all wealthy men who would be aghast at any form of federal government, such as that which exists now. It was their fear that the US might end up in the hands of the “mob”, such as the French Revolution had produced. Thus, they invented a “safety device” called the Electoral College to prevent anyone except the wealthy from ever attaining any power in the US.

However, what they did not foresee was the inevitable growth of the federal government (for a variety of reasons, including the need of taxes to fund one and pay our bills), and which culminated in the US Civil War.

Since then, we have been essentially operating under the “fiction” of a US Constitution, and with a “de facto” federal government in charge, so references to the intent of our “Founding Fathers” is presently a moot point, since NOTHING about this country is what was intended, EXCEPT the rule of the wealthy class.

As we have transitioned from a States’ Rights basis to a Federal Government basis, the power of the wealthy class has shifted from that of the states to the federal government.

Having said that, I would also argue that you are wrong in stating it is not the job of the federal government to create “equality” (that is equality under the law), still guaranteed by the original intent of the US Constitution to which the US (mostly) still adheres to through the US Supreme Court, which guarantees all of its citizens equal protection under the law.

Taxation by the government at all levels is performed under the aegis of our Constitution. Tax “laws” should therefore be administered fairly or the basic meaning of our government — fair and equal treatment to ALL its citizens — no longer exists.

This is what the wealthy class can’t seem to understand, that once whatever is left of our Constitutional rights are abrogated, then the US will sink into what it fears most — mob rule.

======================================== ===========

You state:

“It would destroy the very foundation of this country as we know it. If you want more income, you’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way. Figure out how to EARN it. I don’t know where this “Occupy” mind set has bubbled up from, but it’s time to skim such scum from our “melting pot” and toss it in the dump where it belongs.”

======================================== ===============

I reply:

I think you miss the point the “Occupy” protests are trying to make. These people were earning a living, but lost their jobs because the wealthy class moved (“outsourced”) their jobs to 3rd world countries in order to earn more profits, which they managed to retain because of their legislative power over the federal government.

Without any real jobs (i.e. manufacturing jobs) in the US anymore, we have gone into debt, generated a massive imbalance in our trade (especially with China over the past 30 years), have crashed the housing market because of a lack of jobs and by attempting to compensate with borrowing (which the wealthy class encouraged beyond all reason), and now the US economy is on the brink of a major financial collapse.

WHY would people who have been cheated out of the much-vaunted “American Dream” NOT want to “destroy the very foundation of this country as we know it.”?

Especially since the wealthy class is now flaunting their wealth as never before, and to add insult to injury refusing to pay taxes.

Your “sage advice” is that “it’s time to skim such scum from our “melting pot” and toss it in the dump where it belongs.”

First of all this nation has NEVER been a “melting pot” (by the way, the term is outdated, and you should have said “multicultural” instead — same BS, different era).

And where, EXACTLY, is this “dump” where they belong?

And who, EXACTLY, are they?

Once this country heads down that “slippery slope”, we could easily end up a full-fledged 3rd world country at best, and a between the wars Germany at worst, with the government deciding who is human and who is not.

I’d just as soon skip that future. I think things are going to be bad enough as it is.

==================================

You state:

“No one with “wealth” can afford to see it’s purchasing power erode at the rate the country has been increasing the money supply. They MUST “put it at risk” just to stay where they are. These people are NOT stupid.”

======================================== =============

I reply:

The ONLY reason the US has been “printing money” like there is no tomorrow is to continue bailout out the wealthy class — Bernanke made a massive mistake in 2008 by bailout out the “too big to fail banks” and he has since compounded his error by continuing to bail them out.

The bankers are using the “free money” to continue to invest in jobs (and healthy profits) in 3rd world countries, but NONE of that returns here for our own economy (which is why the US housing market is on “life support”, and there is no “real” consumer demand, except from the wealthy.

So, I disagree with your assertion above — these ARE STUPID if they think this situation can last indefinitely.

======================================== ===============

You state:

“Maintaining and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure was once and needs again to be a federal priority. It would, however, be foolish to pay the necessary premium under rules that require only union labor. This work needs to be contracted out under a unrestricted competitive bidding process.”

======================================== ==========

I reply:

Clearly, this is your argument for maintaining an “open border” policy on the premise that more cheap labor will help us recover our infrastructure.

First of all, no one in their right mind is investing in our infrastructure, because without a viable economy there is no need for one.

So, your argument that “Maintaining and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure was once and needs again to be a federal priority.” is patently ridiculous on the face of it.

The US is presently over $15 trillion in debt, with no way to pay it off, and living in fear the Chinese will demand our “pink slip”.

Therefore, we are broke and cannot afford to rebuild anything anymore.

======================================== ==========

You state:

“I’ll agree that for too long our “representatives” have paid more attention to special interests than to their job of running the country. I’ll agree that circumstances dictate increased taxation on high incomes; but NOT until our elected representatives reach a consensus as to what kind of country we want going forward from the next election.

======================================== =======

I reply:

Even if — think in terms of literally astronomical odds against this — “our” (and if they are yours, they certainly are not mine) elected representatives reach a consensus about what kind of country we want going forward (note, the way you have phrased this, it is the government who is deciding here, not the people) there is less than a chance of a “snow ball in hell” of successfully passing taxes on the wealthy class at this point.

======================================== ===========

You state:

“They must then, in order to get our financial house in order, figure out how to separate national needs from national wants and prioritize available funding. To give Congress more tax revenue before this process is to try to put out a fire with gasoline.

======================================== ============

I reply:

In order to get our “financial house in order” we first need to stop perpetuating this system, which is clearly broken.

Stop the revolving door of wealthy class /”public servants” which we can no longer afford, mainly by immediately imposing strict term limits on ALL political offices, and stop lobbying 100% because it is nothing more than legalized bribery of our “public servants”.

This country has reached a crossroads, and we CANNOT afford to take the wrong road from here or we will no longer survive as a nation.

My advice to you and others like you is to remove your head from your anal cavity before speaking — it does wonders for clearing the mind.

CPA/MBA

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive

545 People run this country:
1 President
1 Vice president (not included, only votes in a tie)
100 Senators
435 Representatives
5 Delegates (not included, cannot vote)
1 Resident Commissioner (not included, cannot vote)
9 supreme court members

Term limits for congress and the supreme court,
campaign finance reform for all public offices, or nothing will ever change.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

@Gordon2352,
The CPA/MBA suggest you are educated. Your words suggest otherwise. Ask for your money back.

You see yourself as wiser than those amazing gentlemen that saw the need for and founded this FREE country. I don’t agree in the slightest. Americans STILL live under “interpretations” and Amendments of the United States Constitution. Only in the alternate reality of your mind is it fiction.

Yes, there has, for fifty+ years been a power grab by the federal government of rights reserved to the states. That pendulum could swing back the other way in the future. I don’t know and you don’t either. We need to work to bring that about.

I, too, believe all levels of government are obligated to apply all laws equally so as to assure equal protection to federal citizens. What led you to believe otherwise? The equality that our Constitution guarantees is that of opportunity, NOT achievement. Success in life is not guaranteed anyone, anywhere!

You can create any kind of society you want just by how you tax it. I’m not happy at all with current tax rules, regulations and rewards, but they are the current law of the land. They do need to be changed.

Nonetheless, it will be a long, long time, judging from the number of people shopping over the holidays, before there is any serious prospect of “mob rule” in America. Your inference otherwise is truely ridiculous.

Your rambling “replies”: sequentially…

NO one, including you, knows what point “Occupy” was trying to make. Ask ten people, you’ll get several different answers and a majority of “I don’t know”s. No one can properly claim to speak for that “happening”.

Globalization and Outsourcing are the two sides of a swinging door. Everybody gains access to the previously “closed” U.S. market, and U.S. companies gain access to low cost material, labor and less financially burdensome regulations throughout the world.

The trade imbalance with China is arguably a U.S. leadership failure but, to be fair, the “new normal” is one in which NO ONE has experience. Americans were head over heels in debt before this recession and related job losses. The recession just made bad things much worse in combination.

Idiotic tax incentives seduced many easily led middle class individuals to believe they needed and wanted to live in 4,000 sq. ft. (and up) McMansions, and that they would have no problem paying associated payments for the twenty or thirty years of the mortgages they signed. They also believed the value of their purchase could only go up. Their beliefs were wrong. They lost those bets. now they want out. Not gonna happen.

Choices have consequences. Believing houses go up in value forever does not make it true or justify the decision of building ever-bigger, more opulent houses.
The trade imbalance had nothing to do with the housing crash, which was caused by too many high-dollar oversized houses for the economy to absorb and whose value plummeted with that glut. Supply and demand.

If you want to throw an immature hissy-fit or hold your breath until you turn blue, have at it. You undertake ANY action to “destroy the very foundation of this country as we know it.” other than as an anonymous coward and you will go to jail. Your “multicultural” belongs where the sun never shines.

The U.S. Economy suffered major financial collapse as this recession unfolded. I agree that the mortgage lenders and banks need an aggressive financial haircut too. Federal monies dispensed as “foreign aid”, whether to build third world countries or to prop up modern western ones, has been done without appropriate disclosure and discussion. The people responsible, contrary to your simple minded accusations, are NOT synonymous with the “wealthy class” of this country (whom you obviously hate).

Much of that “printing press” money has been used to pay able-bodied people not to work (for far too long), to pay the poor to stay poor and multiply (taxpayers pay by the head), to pay farmers not to farm…a lot of stupid things. I agree we need to pull the plug on the printing presses.

If it were up to me I would mine our borders! We have done, in the overall, an entirely unacceptable job on the federal, state and local level (who should be working together sharing resources) of defending them. All the “players” know the U.S. isn’t serious. So here, as in the financial “services” crime DOES pay and it pays very well with little, if any risk. We need to change that.

It doesn’t take a CPA or MBA to understand priorities. Americans pay taxes for and deserve in return a safe and functional infrastructure. My point is that non-union American workers stand available and capable of building, fixing or maintaining it for much less tax money than the unions that presently get ALL that kind of work under Davis-Bacon pork demand.

If our federal government were doing it’s job in good faith our infrastructure would have received necessary financial support before shoveling out money to support an an ever-expanding underclass that does nothing but breed and paying able-bodied adults to do nothing for 99+ weeks.

I did NOT state or suggest that “the government” should decide what sort of society we should have unless you see a single entity in that term when there are many. I differentiate in absolute terms two “governments”.

One is comprised of unelected and unaccountable alphabet-soup agencies and our Supreme Court, also unelected and unaccountable. The other is our Congress of duly elected Representatives of “we, the people” and our President.

Only an elected Congress and President of common cause and mind has the power to define and fund our society with clarity from the present chaos. We can only hope that it do so will following the next election.

Just because a task is hard or the odds long doesn’t mean you avoid it. If you had been in charge, America would have just rolled over to Hitler and Japan, I guess. No convictions worth anything? Pah! You want to “stop perpetuating this system, which is clearly broken”. Nope. Wrong again.

“This system” you refer to is Capitalism, the ONLY system that can make the economic pie bigger. Every other “system” just divides up an economic pie of fixed size among others (or a smaller number of participants, killing or starving the rest). When an alternative system proves itself better, Americans may listen; until then ALL “other roads” are the “wrong road.”

I have not asked for nor shall I follow advice from you. As a wannabee anarchist, ‘tis YOU and your attitude that is out of place in America. Maybe flushing your mind would clear it?

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive