"As Middle Class Fades, So Does Use of Term on Campaign Trail"
The topic was how the new presidential hopefuls avoided the use of the word “middle class.” The news has been out for years that wages for many are stagnant while the cost of living creeps upward.
The Great Recession further depleted the ranks of the middle class. Well documented trends show the “hour glass” shape of America's demographics, no doubt, the top part much smaller than the bottom.
The article pointed out that many people are seeing the middle class dream – nice house, cars, college education for kids, the expected comforts – becoming less accessible.
Some sociologists see entire down shifts of demographic groups. Today's college BA with a social/economic trajectory about like a high school degree a generation ago. Today's high school degree about like a drop out a generation ago.
The article opined that the candidates avoid the term middle class because more and more people are feeling ill at ease with the term and when they see it, reminds them they are “not keeping up.” They are not feeling more secure about retirement, kids, nice house, the occasional vacation.
Terms the candidates are using include - everyday Americans, hardworking taxpayers, people who work for the people who own businesses and ordinary Americans. According to the article, the term middle class is now used with a touch of nostalgia.
The decline of the middle has company. The decline of Planet Earth.
Considering the trends of pollution, climate change, habitat loss, paved over farm land, geo political stress and the occasional war, the consuming habits of the middle class [american and elsewhere] is a core reason.
Certainly, the middle class has company. In a general way, the larger the income, the larger the environmental foot print. People making millions tend to consume more than people simply making hundreds of thousands. That consumption is the source of a degraded planet. My one close contact with the upper middle class has 3 houses, four cars, travels extensively. And is the act of downsizing, in a comparative way to the past thirty years. And this person is spare change compared to people making millions., much less tens or hundreds of millions.
The level of comsumption of the affluent classes deserves the description of crime against humanity because their foot prints affect the state of the world and the state of military preparedness to safeguard the access to the materials that affluence depends on.
Who can say if the footprint of ten $100,000 incomes is equal to one million dollar income.
An important consideration is, whats the point? Whats the point of affluence. Security, health and well being are completely legitimate goals and needs in life. Where is the inflection point where “enough” becomes too much? Given the trends and given the needs of an ill conceived growth economy, we are a long ways away from gaining the wisdom and maturity to know when to say enough.
Actually, some people are well aware of these issues. Some people have already said, enough. I have enough stuff.
That is not a choice of billions of people in the world. Billions lack clean water, a nealthy diet and other basic needs. Billions of people all over the world would give anything for a down scaled American lifestyle of an “ordinary American.” They risk their lives crossing the desert into the US, they risk their lives hiding in a truck's empty gas tank to be smuggled into Italy or in a remarkably over crowded boat from North Africa to Europe.
So what is the point of affluence? Once “reasonable” needs are covered, why another car, a 4000 square foot house instead of 2000. A 300 foot yacht instead of a 100 foot.
People being greedy goes back to beginning of the human experience. Its nothing new. Do we still need to be controlled by the same thinking that has lead to so many wars and now environmental degradation?
The Workers State that looked so hopeful after the overthrow of the Czar, the Land of the Free that looked so hopeful after King George was run out of the town. Both were co-opted by a ruling class with its primary goal to preserve their privilege and power.
The Worker's State gave way to Stalin and his brutal regime to catch up with the West so the ruling class in the nascent Soviet Union could preserve its power and privilege. In the end, the Soviet Union could not keep up.
The US was far more “successful” at maintaining social cohesion. I dont think that was from any superior moral character. Rather, it was because the US and the West have been far more successful in exploiting natural resources and becoming so wealthy, even the people close to the bottom of the pyramid had/have enough stuff to keep the occupied and distracted. Our peace and tranquility comes by way of spectator sports, American Idol and shopping malls. People have the cash [or at least the credit] to afford the distractions.
American peace and tranquility – for the most part – has been paid for by deepening damage to the natural world and neglect of other possibilities in life – such as developing our unique individual and collective positive potentials and recognizing how that must fit with in the boundaries provided by the natural world.
The “recent” news about one police abuse after another may surprise some people. I have not experienced it myself,,, my back ground is white, middle class, educated and male.
The riots and unrest created by the police abuse are an early warning. My guess, these conditions are a permanent way of life for millions of Americans. Its only now they are receiving much attention. Certainly much of the reaction is specific the the police behavior but likely much of it is stored up anger that is much more systemic.
As the middle class declines, some of those people may well become part of the riot, which should be seen more as a protest than law breaking.
Will the American Dream come to the rescue? Would genuine equal opportunity for the disadvantaged, a chance to join the middle class offer enough hope to enough people to trade anger for a decent job?
From this perspective, Planet Earth cannot subsidize the level of economic activity that could offer enough hope to enough people to distract them from frustrated violent actions.
The dream of joining the middle class, as we know it, or knew it, is NOT a viable solution.
A viable solution must be based on what can Planet Earth sustain and that will look a LOT DIFFERENT than what millions of people grew up with and what millions of others aspire to.
In closing, learning to downsize gracefully is best choice for those who can afford it. For many reasons.
For those already left “behind”, or “falling” behind, easy for me to say, consider alternatives to the American Dream.
Consider a set of priorities that does depend on personal initiative but with a different goal. Not to join the “traditional” middle class but to create a new kind of “Eco/Thrifty/Frugal Class” that is cooperative, community based, lives within it environmental and economic means.
There are many needs that can be taken care of in ways other than money. And there are many models in many challenged locations that can inspire and point the way to a different kind of future.
Perhaps at some point, a new demographic group will take shape, perhaps low in income but high in social well being.
And maybe that emerging group can advance a political/social agenda and field candidates that far more address its preferences for social and spiritual uplift along with living within its environmental and economic means.
Note - This website addresses the issues of this blog - living with our means and creating a different set of values and goals. Statistically, I am deep in poverty and under privilege. That is FAR from the on the ground situation. My social/economic/environmental profile cannot be determined by mainstream definitions or measurements.