When we talk about the dwindling Middle Class, we are talking about nothing less than the shrinking of opportunity and prosperity.
I am going to start off by giving you my own perspective of what the Middle Class is, to me. I wasn’t raised Middle Class, necessarily. We were more on the fringe, or perhaps on the lower spectrum. My parents were not college educated; they lived mostly in apartments when I was growing up. When they divorced, my Mom waited tables for a long time and my dad worked on the railroad. I would go to my friend’s houses and THEY were really Middle Class homes- their parents had attended college and had good jobs, and owned their homes. There was a feeling of stability. They took vacations and the kids went to camp and they got braces and went to college. They didn’t worry about anything- they were comfortable. In my mind, that is what the Middle Class is- a safe place. A land of opportunity and prosperity, where educations get you jobs that afford you and your family security and as such also affords your kids opportunities.
Now here is Wikipedia’s definition for the Middle Class– Members of the middle class belong to diverse groups which overlap with each other. Overall, middle-class persons, especially upper-middle-class individuals, are characterized by conceptualizing, creating and consulting. Thus, college education is one of the main indicators of middle-class status. Largely attributed to the nature of middle-class occupations, middle class values tend to emphasize independence, adherence to intrinsic standards, valuing innovation and respecting non-conformity. Politically more active than other demographics, college educated middle class professionals are split between the two major parties.
Income varies considerably from near the national median to well in excess of $100,000. Household income figures, however, do not always reflect class status and standard of living, as they are largely influenced by the number of income earners and fail to recognize household size. It is therefore possible for a large, dual-earner, lower middle class household to out-earn a small, one-earner, upper middle class household. The middle classes are very influential, as they encompass the majority of voters, writers, teachers, journalists, and editors. Most societal trends in the US originate within the middle classes. (see footnote 1)
When we talk about the dwindling Middle Class, we are talking about nothing less than the shrinking of opportunity and prosperity. When you have a Middle Class, this means healthy, educated people who enjoy a certain standard of living. But also, it gives the people who exist at a lower standard of living a place to strive to, a reachable goal. Like me, as a kid- I always wished we lived in one of the suburban houses where my friends lived, with a two car garage, a rec room, and a back yard. It wasn’t unattainable- and eventually, both of my newly married parents were able to create that reality for themselves. You could always work your way up- from lower class to middle, from lower middle to upper middle- there were rungs and you could ascend, if you wanted. That is the definition of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness- the ability to pursue your happiness, the liberty to improve your circumstances- and a life worth living. When the Middle Class goes, then so does the ability to strive for a higher standard of living. Picture it like this- in 50 or 75 years, the majority of the US population could be living in abject poverty, while a small percent are living in extravagance.
We have all seen dystopian movies that depict this- in large part because it isn’t a far fetched reality- greed is human nature, as is apathy- the heady cocktail that creates such a possibility. Its already happened, in fact. Medieval times were characterized by this-hundreds of peasants living in poverty while providing all the goods and services for the small handful of nobility, who lived extravagantly while all around them the impoverished, uneducated peasants eked out what little they could for themselves.
So lets now consider the Low Income bracket- which could be the future of 95% of most Americans in the coming decades if things do not alter their course. Most of this class are marginalized in some way; marginalized people have greater obstacles to success. By design, if you ask me. I don’t want to get too controversial here, but since this is an Op Ed, meaning this is my opinion- I will just say this- I have good enough evidence, from reading and investigating, that the lower income neighborhoods are manufactured to keep people down. From the proliferation of fast food which affects health and wellbeing, to the educational opportunities that are lacking…from the very placement of their neighborhoods on a city grid (in the path of the flood zone, by airports) and gentrification that pushes them out of their neighborhoods into even worse ones…. There are so many factors that illustrate that these areas feed the prison systems when people are desperate to try to elevate their standard of living by any means possible, when the normal means to a better quality of life are denied to an entire segment of the population…addiction runs rampant- because opportunity does not exist. There is a lot poor health in these areas due to the fast food/ value meals and typical foods that are marketed to a lower income bracket. There are broken families (which is true everywhere) but in this scenario, with the rising cost of living and the NOT rising minimum wage, a single parent can not afford to raise children on just one job, so they either need a second job- or to resort to crime. With parents not home-kids hit the streets, not the books- and then you have a seriously compromised set of people- uneducated, sick, desperate, strung out, hopeless, addicted. These people are the grist for the mill of Privated Prisons, Big Pharma, and Big Agra (who is making money off all that harmful, processed, fried, sugar-y obesity and diabetes causing food, after all?) You can make a lot of money off sick people. You can make a lot of money off making them sick. You can make a lot of money putting people in prison. Oh- and did you know we are paying the privatized prisons with our taxes? Yes- that’s us. We pay for those people to go to prison once the path is so perfectly paved. For those (ahem, GOP) who worry so much about paying for social services with our tax dollars- think about that. The game is rigged. THE GAME IS RIGGED.
see footnote 2 for facts about poverty and education, footnote 3 for information about low income neighborhoods and crime, footnote 4 is about low income neighborhoods and poor education, footnote 5 the effects of low income communities on families, footnote 6 is about how the presence of fast, cheap, processed foods is affecting the health in lower income communities
(I suggest you take a look at footnotes 2-6 at the end of this blog. What is currently isolated in low income neighborhoods is the future we look forward to without the Middle Class. You need to know.)
If the GOP had their way….
Consider that scenario, and tell me, is that the future you want for this country?
The obvious problem of the majority of wealth going to 1% and less and less to the 99% has been talked about so much, people hardly flinch any longer. They should, we all should flinch at this. How can a Middle Class survive? And how can this be happening, be allowed to happen? How is it that we Americans are voting into power the very people who are behind this?
Here is what Bernie Sanders is proposing, in a nutshell-
Raising the minimum wage so that parents can spend some time with their children, so that non-parents can create better lives for themselves, a higher standard of living …offering young people free college educations (by taxing Wall Street transactions- yes please) so that they can have better opportunities, can create more prosperity for themselves, which enriches the economy (a generation of people who have money to spend on goods and services will do a lot for this economy)…I don’t even need to tell you how free universal health care would benefit this country- but I can tell you that Bernie Sanders’ proposed plan to offer this actually saves this country 5 trillion over 10 years- funds that can go towards re-building the infrastructure that will create many jobs for Americans. His push for sustainable energy alternatives will also create more jobs AND help ensure this planet is still habitable when our great great grandchildren inherit it.
Lets be honest, if you are reading this blog, chances are you already know why Bernie is awesome. This blog is really about what we stand to lose, about possible scenarios, about why the Middle Class is so important, and to get YOU, dear reader, more involved. Go to Bernie’s website and DONATE. Even a little bit. Talk about the issues. GO like his facebook page and like every single post you see of his and share them as well. Print flyers off his website and distribute in your neighborhood. Share this blog. Show your support in every way you are able.
The game is rigged. Bernie Sanders is the Game Changer. Bam!
To read more about where Bernie Sanders stands on the issues, go to his website http://feelthebern.org/