Middle Class Now Outnumbered by Other 2 ClassesJan 08, 2016
For two decades I have observed the middle class shrink. Pew Research released a study last December quantifying what many of us have observed. The good news is that a great percentage are moving into the upper class, while the growth of the lower class is a smaller growth, it troubles me to see so many former middle class workers having to work 2 and 3 part time jobs.
The shrinking middle class does not get much press (LinkedIn doesn't even have a tag for middle class, but I think we need more people paying more attention to what is happening to their present and their futures. The millennials, should be especially concerned, as they struggled entering into the promised prosperity a college education ensured.
One concern indicated by the report is huge leap in the difference between the middle and upper class. It is much harder to make the move now than before. For many years, the average American receives an average 2-2.8% increase in wages on an average salary of $34,000. That barely, if at all, keeps up with the cost of living especially when essentials like food and shelter are concerned. During those same years, C-level employees received an average 14% increase on an average $14M salary with bonuses.
I recently continued my Christmas tradition of watching It's a Wonderful Life starring Donna Reed and James Stewart. This year, Jimmy Stewarts magnificent response to Potters statement that "the riffraff should have to save to buy a house" impressed me more than in the past.
" But he did help a few people get out of your slums, Mr. Potter, and what's wrong with that? Why... here, you're all businessmen here. Doesn't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? You... you said... what'd you say a minute ago? They had to wait and save their money before they even ought to think of a decent home. Wait? Wait for what? Until their children grow up and leave them? Until they're so old and broken down that they... Do you know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you'll ever be!"
I don't have the answers, but I think we need to do more to increase the size of the middle class, not by decreasing the upper class, but by doing more to keep people from moving into the lower class, and to help more move up into the middle class. I realize that sounds a bit naive, but we begin with principles, and then work to make them reality.
I encourage everyone to read the report. Then, I look forward to your comments. But more importantly, I encourage you to do something about it.
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