The Pew Research Center has done a new study on the middle class here in America, and it's not pretty. For a lot of folks it confirms in numbers what they've been feeling in their gut. The middle class (defined in the study as a broad mass of Americans making between $39,000 and $118,000 for a family of three) has been taking it on the chin. Pick whenever you want as to when this decline began, but now it's bad enough to call the period from 2000-2010 "The Lost Decade".
The numbers are as follows, and this is just some of them. 85% of those surveyed said it's harder to maintain a middle class lifestyle. Median household income dropped in the first decade of the 21st Century by $3500 for a family of three. The median household's net worth is down an astonishing 28%. Any gains made by the middle class during the early oughts was totally wiped out by the recession that began in '07.
There's more. In 2011, just over 50% of the nation was defined as middle class. That's down 10% from the early 1970s. In if you want to know where all the money's gone, consider this. For the first time in 40 years, the percentage of national income paid by the middle class trails that earned by upper income households. Yes, the rich are getting richer, but at who's expense? and do you really think hard work alone is the reason?
On Thursday morning, I asked the radio audience who they thought was to blame for all this. The most frequent answer was big corporations. The Pew study said most (62%) of those polled blamed Congress, followed by banks. Former President GW Bush took a lot more heat on this than did President Obama.
Leaving aside the politics behind these devastating numbers, the American middle class needs to ask itself some hard questions about how to get out of this ditch. And if you think just the middle class is affected, think again. The working class, the working poor, and those living in poverty are finding it harder to climb the economic ladder of success. What happens if they work hard and play by the rules, only to find their is no middle class pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
Really, what DOES happen if we keep stagnating like this?
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