Long Live the Middle Class – By Andrew Soergel | May 20, 2016


The rich get richer and the poor get poorer but those in the middle can still sway elections.

(Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

(Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

The 2016 presidential election cycle has brought with it a noticeable shift in how the average American talks about the economy, says Charlie Kirkwood, owner of the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort in Delaware, Pennsylvania.

That changed rhetoric likely stems from a much more significant demographic shift away from the historically dominant middle class that could rewrite the rules of the road for political campaigns going forward.

Kirkwood – a business owner and two-time Republican National Convention state delegate who has closely followed this year’s race – recently found himself sitting at a local bar when a political news program appeared on the television.

“Within five minutes, two guys who I don’t know – laborer type of guys – were talking to me about income inequality,” Kirkwood recalls. “There is a conversation out there, not amongst particularly sophisticated people, that the average guy is not benefiting and that the Wall Street guys are making zillions of dollars.”

That conversation is not without merit. Study after study has recently shown that America’s traditionally strong middle class has eroded and that the share of citizens living at the bottom and the top of the income scales have grown considerably in turn.

Robert Reich: The American middle class is in a state of revolt – ROBERT REICH WEDNESDAY, DEC 16, 2015 12:15 AM PST


The former secretary of labor ties the rise of Donald Trump to the elevated mortality rate of working whites

Robert Reich: The American middle class is in a state of revolt

This originally appeared on Robert Reich’s blog.

The great American middle class has become an anxious class – and it’s in revolt.

Before I explain how that revolt is playing out, you need to understand the sources of the anxiety.

Start with the fact that the middle class is shrinking, according to a new Pew survey.

The odds of falling into poverty are frighteningly high, especially for the majority without college degrees.

Two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Most could lose their jobs at any time.

Many are part of a burgeoning “on-demand” workforce – employed as needed, paid whatever they can get whenever they can get it.

Yet if they don’t keep up with rent or mortgage payments, or can’t pay for groceries or utilities, they’ll lose their footing.

The stress is taking a toll. For the first time in history, the lifespans of middle-class whites are dropping.

Article continues:

http://www.salon.com/2015/12/16/robert_reich_the_american_middle_class_is_in_a_state_of_revolt_partner/

 

7 Billionaires Worried about Income Inequality by Erik Sherman NOVEMBER 28, 2015, 10:00 AM EST


Some surprising names on the list. 

Income inequality is a complicated issue. The U.S. is the richest and yet most unequal country in the world when you consider wealth, according to Allianz. And yet, there is economic mobility; many Americans shift income brackets, with 70% of the population experiencing at least one year in the top 20th percentile of income and 53% landing in the top 10th percentile in at least one year.

But as the disparities in wealth and income have become more marked, the national conversation over income inequality, as well as how to shore up America’s middle class, has gained urgency. It has even become a cause célèbre with surprising bedfellows. Democrats and Republicans have both focused on the topic, albeit with different solutions in mind. Harvard Business School alumni have cited it as a major concern — just like union activists and minimum wage workers at the fast food protests.

 And billionaires are no exception. Entrepreneur and investor Nick Hanauer, who sold his Internet advertising company to Microsoft for $6 billion in 2007, most famously warned fellow one-percenters, “If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality.” But he has plenty of company. Some are concerned on moral grounds; others cite the impact on the economy. Here are seven other billionaires who say they are worried about how income inequality will affect America.

http://fortune.com/2015/11/28/billionaires-income-inequality/

What Happened to Middle Class America? – The Business of Life (Episode 7) – Vice News Published on Jul 22, 2015


As we inch closer to the 2016 election, presidential candidates and politicians have begun to phase out the term “middle class” from their vocabulary. Terms like “everyday Americans” and “hard-working taxpayers” are replacing the once-common term. “Middle Class,” a phrase that once evoked a sense of optimism, shared wealth, and the American Dream, now invokes a sense of anxiety, and an uncertain future. Why? Because, as automation replaces jobs and the income gap widens, the middle class is in a catastrophic state of decline.

On this episode of the Business of Life, we’ll get to the bottom of just what the “middle class” is: how to get in, how to stay in, and why so many Americans are falling out. Joined by David Madland of the Center for American Progress, Reporter Charlie LeDuff, and Shikha Dalmia of the Reason Foundation.

Watch “Why is College So Expensive? (Episode 6)” – http://bit.ly/1gEn2ZS

Trickle-down’s middle-class massacre:  Failure of conservative economics should discredit these bankrupt ideas forever – DAVID MADLAND SATURDAY, JUN 13, 2015 03:30 AM PDT


Supply-side economics hollowed out the middle class. It’s time to stop listening to the architects of inequality

Trickle-down's middle-class massacre: Failure of conservative economics should discredit these bankrupt ideas forever

On April 30, 2012, Edward Conard, a former partner for the financial management company Bain Capital and a multimillionaire who retired at age 51, sat across from Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” to promote his new book. Conard smiled and stared intently through his black-rimmed glasses as Jon Stewart, the liberal host of the comedy show, held up his book and described its contents. Conard’s book argued that America’s economy would be stronger if people like Conard were even richer and the country had even higher levels of economic inequality.

Stewart was puzzled by Conard’s argument and joked that it didn’t seem right because inequality in the United States was approaching the level in countries with “kidnapping-based economies,” generating laughter in the audience. Then Stewart shifted to an opening that would give Conard a chance to explain himself. “My question to you about the premise of the book,” Stewart stated, pausing for effect before setting up his punch line, “is huh?”

Conard laughed along with the audience, and then launched into his argument that great rewards for the “most talented” people were the secret to America’s success. Making the rich richer is good for everyone, he claimed, because high levels of inequality provide strong incentives for risk taking and innovation that are essential for economic growth.

Though Conard’s comments were provocative—indeed his book tour generated significant press, including a multipage feature in the New York Times Magazine—he was merely stating the barely hidden premise underlying supply-side economics. Supply-side economics, the misguided theory that has controlled economic policymaking for the past three decades, is built on the idea that inequality is good. Tax cuts for the rich and less regulation of business supposedly provide incentives for the wealthy to invest and work more. Enabling “job creators” to get richer helps us all, the theory goes.

 

Article continues:

http://www.salon.com/2015/06/13/trickle_downs_middle_class_massacre_failure_of_conservative_economics_should_discredit_these_bankrupt_ideas_forever/

The Upper Middle Class Is Ruining America – By Reihan Salam JAN. 30 2015 12:38 PM


And I want it to stop.

 Everyone who’€™s entitled to the good life raise their hands. Photo by Goodshoot/Thinkstock


Everyone who’€™s entitled to the good life raise their hands.
Photo by Goodshoot/Thinkstock

I first encountered the upper middle class when I attended a big magnet high school in Manhattan that attracted a decent number of brainy, better-off kids whose parents preferred not to pay private-school tuition. Growing up in an immigrant household, I’d felt largely immune to class distinctions. Before high school, some of the kids I knew were somewhat worse off, and others were somewhat better off than most, but we generally all fell into the same lower-middle- or middle-middle-class milieu. So high school was a revelation. Status distinctions that had been entirely obscure to me came into focus. Everything about you—the clothes you wore, the music you listened to, the way you pronounced things—turned out to be a clear marker of where you were from and whether you were worth knowing.

By the time I made it to a selective college, I found myself entirely surrounded by this upper-middle-class tribe. My fellow students and my professors were overwhelmingly drawn from comfortably affluent families hailing from an almost laughably small number of comfortably affluent neighborhoods, mostly in and around big coastal cities. Though virtually all of these polite, well-groomed people were politically liberal, I sensed that their gut political instincts were all about protecting what they had and scratching out the eyeballs of anyone who dared to suggest taking it away from them. I can’t say I liked these people as a group. Yet without really reflecting on it, I felt that it was inevitable that I would live among them, and that’s pretty much exactly what’s happened.

So allow me to unburden myself. I’ve had a lot of time to observe and think about the upper middle class, and though many of the upper-middle-class individuals I’ve come to know are good, decent people, I’ve come to the conclusion that upper-middle-class Americans threaten to destroy everything that is best in our country. And I want them to stop.

Who counts as upper middle class? It depends. Back in 2013, one surveyfound that 85 percent of Americans saw themselves as part of a broad middle class, stretching from lower middle (26 percent) to middle middle (46 percent) to upper middle (12 percent). We could define it by income—say, all single adults who earn more than $100,000 a year, or all married couples that earn more than $200,000—but that’s too crude. Let’s just say that upper-middle-class status is a state of mind. We’re talking about families that earn well into the six-figure range yet don’t feel rich, either because of their student loan debt or the enormous cost of the amenities they consider nonnegotiable: living in well-above-average school districts for those with children or living in “cool” neighborhoods for those without.

2015 State of the Union: Obama Touts Economic Gains, Vows to Protect Signature Laws


President unveils $360 billion tax hike on the rich to finance tax cuts for the middle class.

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President Barack Obama emphasized the improving economy and bipartisanship in his State of the Union speech Tuesday.

 

Looking relaxed and confident, buoyed by strong hiring and unemployment numbers and an uptick in his job approval rating, President Barack Obama declared economic victory in his State of the Union message Tuesday, using it as the foundation for “middle-class economics” — his argument to rebuild the middle class and close the vast gulf between the haves and have-nots.

[READ: Live Blog: President Obama’s State of the Union Address]

The centerpiece of that argument: a new, $360 billion tax hike on the rich to finance a package of tax cuts for the middle class, part of his plan to level the economic playing field.

“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” he said. “That’s what middle-class economics is – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

Despite a call for bipartisanship — including a nostalgic trip to his “one America” speech at the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston, an address that helped propel him to the White House — Obama also repeated his promise to reject any GOP bills that would undermine his agenda, or dismantle his signature achievements like Wall Street reform, his executive action on immigration or Obamacare.

A graphic reading: "Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to 
an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” by President Barack Obama.

“We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix,” the president said. “And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it. It will earn my veto.”

Article continues:

http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2015/01/21/2015-state-of-the-union-obama-touts-economic-gains-vows-to-protect-signature-laws?int=a14709

Why America’s middle class is lost – Written by Jim Tankersley – Published on December 12, 2014


The middle class took America to the moon. Then something went horribly wrong.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at Dec 13, 2014 9.20

Photos by Bonnie Jo Mount Video by Whitney Shefte Graphic by Darla Cameron, Ted Mellnik Produced by Emily Yount, Dwuan June

DOWNEY, CALIF. — One day in 1967, Bob Thompson sprayed foam on a hunk of metal in a cavernous factory south of Los Angeles. And then another day, not too long after, he sat at a long wood bar with a black-and-white television hanging over it, and he watched that hunk of metal land a man on the moon.

On July 20, 1969 — the day of the landing — Thompson sipped his Budweiser and thought about all the people who had ever stared at that moon. Kings and queens and Jesus Christ himself. He marveled at how when it came time to reach it, the job started in Downey. The bartender wept.

On a warm day, almost a half-century later, Thompson curled his mouth beneath a white beard and talked about the bar that fell to make way for a freeway, the space-age factory that closed down and the town that is still waiting for its next great economic rocket, its new starship to the middle class.

They’ve waited more than a decade in Downey. They’ve tried all the usual tricks to bring good-paying jobs back to the 77-acre plot of dirt where once stood a factory that made moon landers and, later, space shuttles. Nothing brought back the good jobs.

ABOUT THIS SERIES:

Liftoff & Letdown: The American middle class is floundering, and it has been for decades. The Post examines the mystery of what’s gone wrong, and shows what the country must focus on to get the economy working for everyone again.

Monday: The devalued American worker

Those jobs aren’t coming back. Not at the old North American Rockwell plant, and not in thousands of similarly socked towns.

Yes, the stock market is soaring, the unemployment rate is finally retreating after the Great Recession and the economy added 321,000 jobs last month. But all that growth has done nothing to boost pay for the typical American worker. Average wages haven’t risen over the last year, after adjusting for inflation. Real household median income is still lower than it was when the recession ended.

Make no mistake: The American middle class is in trouble.

Article continues:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/business/2014/12/12/why-americas-middle-class-is-lost/?tid=sm_fb

Sen. Bernie Sanders On How Democrats Lost White Voters – November 19, 2014 5:03 AM ET


Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is one of two independents in the Senate. Now, the self-described socialist says he may run for president.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, says "the average person is working longer hours, lower wages, and they do not see any political party standing up and fighting for their rights."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, says “the average person is working longer hours, lower wages, and they do not see any political party standing up and fighting for their rights.” Win McNamee/Getty Images

 

Sanders is aligned with Senate Democrats, but he has spoken lately of a problem with the Democratic coalition that elected President Obama. He says working-class white voters have abandoned Democrats in large numbers. The party, he says, has “not made it clear that they are prepared to stand with the working-class people of this country, take on the big money interests.”

NPR’s Steve Inskeep sat down with Sanders in his office and talked about the senator’s plan for the middle class, how he says the Democratic Party lost its way, and American action against the Islamic State.


Interview Highlights

On what the Democrats should learn from their midterm election defeat

To see where the Democratic Party is, I think, it’s important to understand where America is. And where America is, is that today we are seeing the collapse, the continued collapse, of the American middle class. You have working-class families who have given up the dream of sending their kids to college. My family never had any money. My father came … from Poland without a nickel in his pocket. He was able to send two of his kids to college. That dream is now not a reality for a whole lot of folks in this country.

And then people look out and they say, “Gee, the wealthiest people are doing phenomenally well.” And where are the Democrats? Do people see the Democratic Party standing up to Wall Street? Any of these guys going to jail? Not really. The average person is working longer hours, lower wages, and they do not see any political party standing up and fighting for their rights. What they see is a Republican Party becoming extremely right wing, controlled by folks like the Koch brothers. But they do not see a party representing the working class of this country.

On why he says Democrats are losing white voters

Well, I am focusing on the fact that whether you’re white or black or Hispanic or Asian, if you are in the working class, you are struggling to keep your heads above water. You’re worried about your kids. What should the Democratic Party be talking about, Steve? What they should be talking about is a massive federal jobs program. There was once a time when our nation’s infrastructure — roads, bridges, water systems, rail — were the envy of the world. Today that’s no longer the case.

I would say if you go out on the street and you talk to people and say, “Which is the party of the American working class?” People would look to you like you were a little bit crazy, they wouldn’t know what you were talking about, and they certainly wouldn’t identify the Democrats.

On African-American support for Democrats

Well, here’s what you got. What you got is an African-American president, and the African-American community is very, very proud that this country has overcome racism and voted for him for president. And that’s kind of natural. You’ve got a situation where the Republican Party has been strongly anti-immigration, and you’ve got a Hispanic community which is looking to the Democrats for help.

But that’s not important. You should not be basing your politics based on your color. What you should be basing your politics on is, how is your family doing? … In the last election, in state after state, you had an abysmally low vote for the Democrats among white, working-class people. And I think the reason for that is that the Democrats have not made it clear that they are prepared to stand with the working-class people of this country, take on the big money interests. I think the key issue that we have to focus on, and I know people are uncomfortable about talking about it, is the role of the billionaire class in American society.

On why Americans are uncomfortable talking about the ‘billionaire class’

Because they fund organizations like NPR and the media in general. Because they make huge campaign contributions, to politics, to politicians of all stripes.

On the U.S. approach to battling the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq

I think the president is … moving us in the right direction. My own view is that if we’re gonna be successful in defeating this brutal organization called ISIS, what needs to happen is that the people in the region, the Muslim nations, are gonna have to take the responsibility of leading that effort. It cannot be the United States of America. In many ways I think that’s exactly what ISIS wants. They want this to be a war of the United States versus ISIS, of the West versus the east, of Christianity versus Islam. What has got to happen is countries like Saudi Arabia which, by the way, has the fourth-largest defense budget in the world … they’re gonna have to step up to the plate and take the leadership in fighting ISIS.

 

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2014/11/19/365024592/sen-bernie-sanders-on-how-democrats-lost-white-voters?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2044

The Most Common Jobs For The Rich, Middle Class And Poor – by QUOCTRUNG BUI October 16, 2014 12:50 PM ET


We’ve written a lot about how income has changed (or not) for the rich, middle class and poor in the U.S. We’ve written much less about what the rich, middle class and poor actually do for work.

To remedy that, we made this graph. It shows the 10 most popular jobs in each income bracket. Click on each job to see where it appears in different income brackets.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at Oct 16, 2014 11.07

The jobs here look shockingly familiar. It’s like a Richard Scarry model of the labor market, with people working jobs ripped right out of a storybook. This is the kind of work that needs to get done in every city in America. It shows that, at least nationally, the conventional idea of what people do for a living still holds.

Looking across incomes and rankings there are a couple of interesting things to note:

  • It’s good to be the boss: Being a manager is the most common job from the 70th percentile up to the 99th.
  • Doctors and lawyers are only found in the top two brackets. (There’s a reason our grandmothers wanted us to go to med school or law school.)
  • Sales supervisors are well-represented across all groups. It’s a broad job title that applies to people making as little as $12,000 a year all the way up to six figures.

The data come from the American Community Survey using individual income from wages and salaries. We restricted the sample to adults ages 25 to 65 and who worked at least three months in the past year.