Posts Tagged ‘American Middle Class’

American labor unions and the middle class

November 16, 2015

UnionsMiddleClassMay2015Source: Center for American Progress.

Home ownership and middle-class black people

October 1, 2015

I sometimes hear white friends wonder why so few poor native-born African Americans have been able to rise into the middle class, compared to poor immigrants.  Senator Elizabeth Warren, in a speech last Sunday, said that one reason is the policies of the federal government on home ownership.

For most middle class families in America, buying a home is the number one way to build wealth. 

It’s a retirement plan — pay off the house and live on Social Security.  

An investment option — mortgage the house to start a business.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren

It’s a way to help the kids get through college, a safety net if someone gets really sick, and, if all goes well and Grandma and Grandpa can hang on to the house until they die, it’s a way to give the next generation a boost — extra money to move the family up the ladder.

For much of the 20th Century, that’s how it worked for generation after generation of white Americans — but not black Americans. 

Entire legal structures were created to prevent African Americans from building economic security through home ownership.  Legally-enforced segregation.  Restrictive deeds.  Redlining.  Land contracts.

Coming out of the Great Depression, America built a middle class, but systematic discrimination kept most African-American families from being part of it.


The American middle class is still struggling

March 9, 2015




Americans historically have thought of ourselves as a middle class nation, a nation in which the majority of people were neither poor nor rich.  That is becoming less true.

The median level of income—that is, the dividing line between the top and bottom 50 percent of income earners—has been falling for 15 years.  This is not a good thing.

At the same time the middle tier of income earners is shrinking.  The middle tier are those who earn more than two-thirds of the median income and less than double the median income.  This is not a good thing.

I think the causes of this trend are the de-industrialization of the U.S. economy, the financialization of the U.S. economy and the upward redistribution of income to a small elite of financiers and corporate executives.


The American Middle Class Hasn’t Gotten a Raise in Fifteen Years by Ben Casselman for FiveThirtyEight.


Endangered species

March 5, 2015

acartoon-middleclass-bisonSource: San Diego Union Tribune (via Liberal Beef)

Obama’s tax plan: Better now than never

January 19, 2015

When Barack Obama ran for President, he promised lower taxes on the American middle class and higher taxes on the super-rich.  Public opinion polls show most Americans favor this.

Barack_Obama_Hope_posterNow, in the seventh year of his Presidency, Obama has a new tax plan that will do just that—reduce taxes by $175 billion on working people and increase taxes by $320 billion mainly on holders of financial assets.

It’s not a radical plan, but it’s almost certain to be opposed by Republicans in Congress, and that will make a good campaign issue for Democrats in 2016.

The cynic in me wonders why the President didn’t introduce this in 2009 when Democrats had majorities in both houses of Congress, and there was some possibility it would be enacted.

But the pragmatist in me thinks it is a good thing to get politicians and the public talking about tax justice even if it doesn’t result in legislation on the first try.


President Obama finally has his Piketty moment by Matt O’Brien for the Washington Post.  Hat tip to Cannonfire.

Five things about Barack Obama’s Robin Hood tax plan by Brian Faler for Politico.

It’s getting expensive to be middle class

September 8, 2012

Double click to enlarge.

“It’s expensive to be poor” was an old saying of the Catholic Worker movement.  It is a true saying.  Poor people, because of lack of access to transportation, information and credit, often wind up paying more than than middle-class or well-to-do people would pay for the same things.  But now it’s getting to be true that “It’s expensive to be middle class.”  The chart above shows the increase, over and above the rate of inflation, in the cost of goods, such as home ownership and college education, that define Americans as middle class.

Double click to enlarge.

In order to maintain a middle class material standard of living, American families took on more and more debt during the past 20 years.  I believe the process of substituting debt for income has reached its limit.  I believe that is why the Great Recession is so much worse than an ordinary recession, and why the effect of economic stimulus was so much less than hoped.

 I think it is a good thing, not a bad thing, that middle-class Americans are paying down their debts and trying to live within their means, but there is going to be a painful readjustment as manufacturers not only in the United States, but Japan, China and other countries adapt to the changed American mass market.

There is a dilemma here.  Private industry is not going to expand unless there is a market for its products.  Americans are not going to increase their buying unless they have jobs at good wages.  One thing that can help break the deadlock is for the U.S. national, state and local governments to continue to employ people to provide needed services such as public education, road maintenance and firefighting, and for the government to invest in long-range infrastructure and other needed projects.

Click on Growth and the Middle Class for the economic case for a strong and prosperous middle class by David Madland, head of the American worker project for the Center for American Progress, a liberal research center.

Click on The American Middle Class, Income Inequality and the Strength of Our Economy for a more in-depth study by the Center for American Progress.

Click on 5 Charts on the State of the Middle Class for more charts from the Center for American Progress.

Hat tip for the charts to The Big Picture.

Click on SUBPRIME AUTO NATION for reasons why the process of substituting debt for income may not have run its course after all.  [Update]

Click on Procter & Gamble marketing strategy assumes middle class is disappearing. [Added 9/9/12]