Whether driven by benign-neglect or outright disdain, the “advanced capitalist system,” along with the nation’s two-party, “incumbency” form of government continues to undermine the country’s Middle Class and hold down those without the resources to live full and fulfilling lives.
As Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, a professor of Economics at Columbia, recently noted,
“The world’s quintessential middle class society is on the way to becoming its first former middle class society.”
According to a new Pew Research Center report,
“In early 2015, 120.8 million adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined…marking the first time in the center’s four decades of tracking this data that the size of the latter groups has transcended that of the first.
Fully 49% of U.S. aggregate income went to upper-income households in 2014, up from 29% in 1970. The share accruing to middle-income households was 43% in 2014, down substantially from 62% in 1970.
And middle-income Americans have fallen further behind financially in the new century. In 2014, the median income of these households was 4% less than in 2000. Moreover, because of the housing market crisis and the Great Recession of 2007-09, their median wealth (assets minus debts) fell by 28% from 2001 to 2013.
Meanwhile, the far edges of the income spectrum have shown the most growth. In 2015, 20% of American adults were in the lowest-income tier, up from 16% in 1971. On the opposite side, 9% are in the highest-income tier, more than double the 4% share in 1971.
The hollowing of the American middle class has proceeded steadily for more than four decades. Since 1971, each decade has ended with a smaller share of adults living in middle-income households than at the beginning of the decade.
Previous observations about the decline of the middle class and growing chasm between the super wealthy and everyone else, on this blog and elsewhere, has generated complaints about the inappropriateness of discussing what they claim to be a call for “class warfare.”
But it is long past time for the nation to drop that defense and for our elected officials to recognize that if we continue to refuse to discuss inequality, equity and fairness, we most certainly will be talking about class warfare, but we will be talking about it in the context of the very real frustration, anger and violence that will continue to grow and spill into the streets of the cities and towns across the United States.
Call it class warfare or use some other euphemism, but talk about it we must.
And that discussion needs to begin with the prompt adoption of a tax system that is fairer and more just, in which the wealthy are required to pay their fair share.
As Wait, What? readers know, in Connecticut the wealthiest pay about 5-6% of their income in state and local taxes, the middle class about 10-11% and the poor in excess of 12%.
Connecticut’s legislators could make a profound impact by ending the budget games and empty political rhetoric and actually changing the tax structure to reduce the burden on the Middle Class and all of those who are striving to make ends meet.