There was always the middle class. That is us! We don’t rub shoulders with the very rich but our homes for the most part are air-conditioned. We frequently have roast beef on Sunday. May God bless the middle class, the solid infrastructure of the world’s greatest economy and the world’s most successful democracy. We have got it, we depend on it, we thank God for it.
Will we always have it?
The other week, the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. released highlights of the research on the middle class. It is discouraging and to me even frightening.
The middle class is receiving less of America’s total income declining to its smallest share in decades as median wages stagnate in the economic doldrums and wealth concentrates at the top as the study documents. The study describes that the middle tier of American families are suffering the worst decade in modern history and have fallen backwards in income for the first time since before World War II. Eighty-five percent of middle class Americans say life is more difficult now than a decade ago in their efforts to maintain their standard of living. Why is this happening?
In the case of any complex situation, there are many reasons. The economic collapse of 2008 for more than any other reason was generated by the selfish, blind greed of the financial world who lied and cheated. The middle class lost billions of dollars in value in their homes. Their taxes then paid to bail out the banks who have gone forward quite well. The middle class has not!
Who will speak for the middle class? Who will represent them in the state capitals and in Washington, D.C.? Throughout the 20th century, the unions did a great job in urging and helping workers to aggressively work to fight for their share of the pie. However, union membership today is less than 10% and going down.
What about the churches? During the 20th century, church leaders and clergy were frequently out speaking for, arguing for and helping middle class people to protect their interests but you don’t see much of that today. The middle class is struggling, lacks a clear voice and has very little confidence in giving their children a better tomorrow than they had received from their parents.
The demographics are sad and even frightening but they are there in front of us for all to see. The massive wealth continues to move to the top. Whether or not it is 1% or 6% is not important but represents a tragic imbalance in distribution of the nation’s resources. The middle class grows smaller and smaller. It is not because their members are disappearing. It is simply that they are dropping down the ladder and joining the ranks of the acutely poor. So the poverty component of the country expands dramatically and tragically.
This has happened before in history often with dire results!