Sunday, February 01, 2015

The shrinking middle class

There's something very wrong with all the articles on the shrinking middle class (faster under Obama than Bush). Can't quite put my finger on it, but this is part of it.

"“I would consider middle class to be people who can live comfortably on what they earn, can pay their bills, can set aside something to save for retirement and for kids in college and can have vacations and entertainment,” said Christine L. Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, a left-leaning research and advocacy group.""  (NYT)

Forget for a moment that Owens describes only material wealth. Who is in that household? Are they a single mom with 3 children for a family of 4, or a married couple with 2 children for a family of 4? Decreasing middle class tracks with decreasing marriage rate. It's not that there aren't successes in single parent households--look at Dr. Ben Carson, or people in your own family who are doing fine. But a 2 doctor household or a middle manager and a nurse household will most likely have a better shot at "middle class life" described by Ms. Owens than a retail clerk.

25 years ago Charles Murray researched and described the British underclass, finding high crime rates, low (not un-) employment, illegitimacy, falling marriage rates, loss of social glue, etc. Of course, the British always had a more distinct class divide than the U.S. but after making headway in the 20th c. it was sliding backward. And the Brits weren't anymore thrilled with his conclusions than the Americans were in 2011 when he published "Coming Apart," describing what is happening to white Americans.  The British system of benefits, like ours, penalizes marriage.


When a left leaning source like the New York Times points out that not even its socialist savior Barack Obama can stop the gap between the top and the middle, can’t put the middle class to work, then you know something else is afoot.  Oh, of course, it must be the fault of capitalism, the very system that built the middle class.

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