It’s been a big week for the middle class. At least in my Internet meanderings.
I woke up to this:
The income of the typical American family dropped for the third year in a row, putting it at 1996 levels when adjusted for inflation, according to a new Census report. The median earnings for men who work full-time year round is particularly troubling, hitting a low not seen since 1978, when adjusted for inflation.
Then I read this, in that same morning briefing, which is a nice antidote:
Consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren announced her intention to challenge Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) in the 2012 election. Warren built President Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from the ground up. In a statement, she said, “The pressures on middle-class families are worse than ever, but it is the big corporations that get their way in Washington. … I want to change that.”
(Here’s a link to her campaign website: http://www.elizabethwarren.com/)
An antidote to the antidote, this article was in my Yahoo! news slideshow this morning: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/How-to-Escape-the-MiddleClass-usnews-1418898375.html?x=0#mwpphu-container
Then I learned that Blue Chip companies aren’t doing anything to change the situation. What can they possibly do? (Besides promote changes in the tax code. Why would they do that? Or maybe manufacture products in U.S. factories. Again, why would they do that?) What they are doing is changing the way they market goods to respond to a market that’s looking more and more like an hourglass – haves on one side, have nots on the other. “The decline and fall of the American middle class” by Paul Harris sums it all up.
Before I read any of that, this Michelle Rhee tweet led me to an article in the Wall Street Journal from Sept. 12 titled “Middle Class Schools Miss the Mark” by Stephanie Banchero. Apparently, a few days before the 2010 Census data made headlines, Third Way put out a report called “Incomplete: How Middle Class Students Aren’t Making the Grade.” As the title suggests, it’s on the lackluster achievement of middle class public schools – defined broadly as schools with anywhere from 25 to 75 percent of students living in poverty. Apparently it’s not only the poor schools that need Superman. Middle income earners who send their children to underachieving public schools need an intervention as well.
Middle class public schools are “underachieving.” Whether or not that’s a reasonable claim to make, I’m waiting (cynically? logically?) for the specious reasoning that links the decline of the middle class to their lackluster education, rather than to an economy that has shifted capital from manufacturing – which requires a robust middle class – to finance – which has no such need. The education reform establishment is talking that way about people already in poverty. What’s to stop them from doing the same to the people next in line?
Highly educated yet middle class people like me, I guess.