More Americans see middle class status slipping

Experts: Rise in those who feel they've slipped below the middle class suggests something "deeply rooted," as people are generally slow to acknowledge downward mobility
Associated Press
Apr 3, 2014

 

A sense of belonging to the middle class occupies a cherished place in America. It conjures images of self-sufficient people with stable jobs and pleasant homes working toward prosperity.

Yet nearly five years after the Great Recession ended, more people are coming to the painful realization that they're no longer part of it.

They are former professionals now stocking shelves at grocery stores, retirees struggling with rising costs and people working part-time jobs but desperate for full-time pay. Such setbacks have emerged in economic statistics for several years. Now they're affecting how Americans think of themselves.

Since 2008, the number of people who call themselves middle class has fallen by nearly a fifth, according to a survey in January by the Pew Research Center, from 53 percent to 44 percent. Forty percent now identify as either lower-middle or lower class compared with just 25 percent in February 2008.

According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who say they're middle or upper-middle class fell 8 points between 2008 and 2012, to 55 percent.

And the most recent General Social Survey, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, found that the vast proportion of Americans who call themselves middle or working class, though still high at 88 percent, is the lowest in the survey's 40-year history. It's fallen 4 percentage points since the recession began in 2007.

The trend reflects a widening gap between the richest Americans and everyone else, one that's emerged gradually over decades and accelerated with the Great Recession. The difference between the income earned by the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans and by a median-income household has risen 24 percent in 30 years, according to the Census Bureau.

Whether or not people see themselves as middle class, there's no agreed-upon definition of the term. In part, it's a state of mind. Incomes or lifestyles that feel middle class in Kansas can feel far different in Connecticut. People with substantial incomes often identify as middle class if they live in urban centers with costly food, housing and transportation.

In any case, individuals and families who feel they've slipped from the middle class are likely to spend and borrow less. Such a pullback, in turn, squeezes the economy, which is fueled mainly by consumer spending.

"How they think is reflected in how they act," said Richard Morin, a senior editor at the Pew Research Center.

People are generally slow to acknowledge downward mobility. Many regard themselves as middle class even if their incomes fall well above or below the average. Experts say the rise in Americans who feel they've slipped below the middle class suggests something deeply rooted.

More people now think "it's harder to achieve" the American dream than thought so several decades ago, said Mark Rank, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

Three years ago, Kristina Feldotte, 47, and her husband earned a combined $80,000. She considered herself solidly middle class. The couple and their four children regularly vacationed at a lake near their home in Saginaw, Michigan.

But in August 2012, Feldotte was laid off from her job as a special education teacher. She's since managed to find only part-time teaching work. Though her husband still works as a truck salesman, their income has sunk by more than half to $36,000.

"Now we're on the upper end of lower class," Feldotte said.

Americans' self-perception coincides with data documenting a shrinking middle class: The percentage of households with income within 50 percent of the median — one way to define a broad middle class — fell from 50 percent in 1970 to 42 percent in 2010.

The Pew survey didn't ask respondents to specify their income. Still, Pew has found in the past that people who call themselves middle class generally fit the broad definitions that economists use.

Roughly 8.4 percent of respondents to the General Social Survey, last conducted in 2012, said they consider themselves lower class. That's the survey's highest percentage ever, up from 5.4 percent in 2006. NORC is a social science research organization at the University of Chicago.

Tom Smith, director of the survey, said even slight shifts are significant. Class self-identification "is traditionally one of the most stable measures" in the survey, he said.

By contrast to the most recent recession, the severe 1981-82 downturn had little effect on class self-identification in Smith's survey.

Why do so many no longer regard themselves as middle class? A key reason is that the recession eliminated 8.7 million jobs. A disproportionate number were middle-income positions. Those losses left what economists describe as a "hollowed out" workforce, with more higher- and lower-paying and fewer middle-income jobs.

Rob McGahen, 30, hasn't yet found a job that paid as well as the purchasing agent position at Boeing's defense division that he left in 2011. Nervous about the sustainability of that job because of government defense cuts, McGahen quit after buying a bar near his St. Louis home.

The bar eventually went bankrupt and cost him his house. He and his wife moved to Pensacola, Fla., where he's had little luck finding work in defense contracting.

Now, he works in the produce section of a supermarket. His wife earns the bulk of their income as a speech pathologist. Their household income has been cut in half, from $110,000 to $55,000, and he and his wife have put off having children.

"It's definitely been a step back," McGahen said.

Now living in an apartment, he misses the couple's three-bedroom house on a quiet cul-de-sac in a St. Louis suburb.

Home ownership is among factors economists cite as markers of middle-class status. Others include being able to vacation, help children pay for college and save for a secure retirement.

Yet stagnant middle-class pay, combined with steep price increases for college, health care and homes, have made those expenses harder to afford. Median household income, adjusted for inflation, hasn't budged since 1996, according to the Census Bureau. Average college tuition has soared 174 percent in that time.

Many of the formerly middle class are still struggling with student debt. McGahen, who has an MBA, estimates he'll be making $600 payments on student loans each month for the next decade. Feldotte, with two master's degrees, says she has "lots and lots of debt."

And she isn't prepared to help her children pay for college.

"There's no money to help them," she said.

Some people feel they've fallen out of the middle class even as their incomes have remained stable, because their costs have risen. One is Richard Timmerman, 66, a retired postal employee in River Falls, Wis.

He's been living off his pension since retiring five years ago. His wife, a sales manager at a hotel and conference center, hasn't had a raise in that time. The recession hammered the hotel's business, though it's slowly recovering.

Yet his cost of living has risen in the past decade or so. Gas prices have surged over that time. So has food. And only this year did the value of Timmerman's retirement savings regain its level of six years ago.

"I see my position in the social structure having gone down a notch," Timmerman said. He considers himself lower-middle class, compared with middle class a few years ago.

A slowly improving U.S. economy could lift some people back into the middle class. Still, the recession and slow recovery have left permanent scars.

McGahen and his wife are trying to rebuild their savings. They no longer have credit cards. Timmerman travels much less than he thought he would in retirement.

"I have really beat myself up a lot over the last 2½ years," McGahen said. "Until I get myself up and going again and in a good place ... it is tough."

Comments

holysee

Watch "INEQUALITY FOR ALL" on Netflix. This documentary explains concisely how we got to where the middle class is today. Doesn't matter if you're a teabagger or a flaming libtard this documentary simply documents the facts of the bridge curve that shows how the distribution of wealth has mirrored the downfall of the middle class. Production per worker has steadliy increased over the last 30 years while income has completly stagnated. Credit cards are what people turned to for supplemental when the income started to loose traction. Banks went to fee based business models. Remember when a bank 5% on a savings account? Ancient history for sure. A bank is likely to just dissovle a savings account over a period of time due to inactivity. I had that happen to an account that I ignored for a while. They took every last penny with "inactivity fess" because I hadn't used the account in over a year. Life is good when you are a corporate citizen called a "bank".

EdO's

The 1%'s with the aid of the gubmint stole the wealth of the middle class. Inflation, stock market and commodity manipulation, corporate giveaways, military industrial complex...
The middle class is waking up to the realization that they are broke and unless they're too doped up with prescription meds, booze or tv/internet, they should be coming after 'em with pitchforks for tar and feathering and confiscation of corporate assets.

Cheney - criminal
Kissinger - criminal
Clinton - criminal
Bush and Jr. - criminal
War on Terror - distraction
911 - Reichstag Fire
The official version that ‘terrorists’ had led the attack was soon questioned abroad. Today it is a fact that the Reichstagsbrand was deliberately used as a pretense and that the ‘empowerment laws’ following this event had been prepared in advance.

anthras

Re."Remember when a bank 5% on a savings account? Ancient history for sure."

Remember paying 8-10% interest on on a mortgage loan? I do not think the banks can now pay 5% interest when many mortgage loans are less than that.If they would get 4.5% interest on money loaned out they could not pay anyone 5% interest on their money deposited in a savings account.

Read an article stating that tax freedom day falls 111 days into 2014 for those that pay taxes. Americans will have made enough to pay $3trillion federal and $1.5 trillion in state taxes ergo more than they will spend on food clothing and housing combined. Of course the government needs the money some to use for the benefit of the people and some to waste and lose.

holysee

Now the American dream of college is a joke due to the student loan crisis which is yet another affront to the middle class. If you're poor and deserve to go academically, there is a good chance of getting a scholarship. If you're daddy is rich, no problem. If you're middle class, the banks would just love to tie you up with a tidy loan.
We would rather pump trillions into doomed wars in the desert than invest in the future of our people.
FACT.

jacksonbrowne

Some, and now maybe the majority, of today's college students use their school loan money on many things not even associated with college. Over the Christmas break while my daughter was home one of her college friends was with her. They were talking about going shopping and her friend said that she still had some of her student loan money leftover that she was going to use. I do not feel sorry for those who use that money for anything else but school.

KnuckleDragger

The dream of college is not a joke. There are many avenues to a college degree for a middle class student, with student loans only being one of them. There are scholarships if you have the grades. Many employers offer some sort of tuition reimbursement program. There are numerous volunteer programs at the state and federal level that will pay your tuition if you sign a contract that you will work for them for a certain period of time after graduation. There is also the military where you can pursue a degree while serving and they pick up 100% of the tuition. You can also sign up for the GI Bill and it will pay for a college education. I completed an undergraduate degree while serving on active duty in the military and didn't owe a penny in student loans. Since I've left the military I obtained a graduate degree with the GI Bill, again without accruing any debt. You see there are ways to pay for college without mortgaging your future if you are willing to put out the effort to find them. As far as the bank tying people up with debt, that's hog wash!!! Out of nearly $1 trillion in student loans, about 8% represent privately funded student loans (banks). The rest are held by the Department of Education (federal government). The largest percentage of loan default is on loans administered by the federal government.

Also, keep in mind that if you have a federal student loan there is no way for you to get out from under it except to pay it off. A person cannot even dissolve the debt through bankruptcy. The gov. made sure they would get their money come he!! or high water.

The study I pulled my numbers from also indicated that the degrees that resulted in the highest default rates were liberal arts degrees. Maybe the government should decline funding a liberal arts degree since in todays marketplace it is not likely to help you find suitable employment.

2cents's picture
2cents

I know a person that has had them self deemed mentally incompetent to get out of his after 20 years. You know they will forget about him and he will move on after he says he takes some meds and have a fresh start. Trust me these people will find ways not to pay!

From the Grave

The whole concept of "classes" and the so-called "American Dream" both are man made concepts which have become outdated, just like home land lines and long distance services. If we think it's wrong to judge other people by race or sexual preference(for lack of a better word), then why do we still feel the need to judge people(or ourselves)based on affluence?

?

From the Grave

To me, the American Dream should be to enjoy every part of your day, every day that you can.

Really are you ...

That's the way our government and the elite want it. Forced debt, elite vs poor, no middle class. How does the US make foreign countries do what they want? Besides war and the threat there of? By imposing sanctions. This is what the government elite want to bestow on the US civilian. Beg for relief because of the forced debt with no way out. It is easier to control people when they are down. When we do give in, the elite will want our freedom in return.

From the Grave

Our government does not give us freedom. Therefore, it can't take it away. That may be your perception, but that's all it is~your perception.
The essence of who you are is only limited by your own thoughts.

Really are you ...

As a US citizen we have certain unalienable rights which are being twisted or are trying to be taken away.

Take the Mr. Collins incident that just happened in Norwalk. Right or wrong, If there were no laws to be questioned. This would have been swept under the rug. Take the drone strikes in Pakistan that kill innocent people. The US maybe killing high level insurgents, with collateral damage. And there isn't anything that the Pakistani people can do but build hatred.

phroggy

Huh?

pntbutterandjelly

@ From the Grave: Wrong. Backwards. Ignorant. "but that's all it is~your perception" won't hold up if you can't even feed yourself, obtain health care on your death bed, afford a car, a roof over your head, education or as you sit in prison because you couldn't pay your taxes! "The essence of who you are" is far, far different than what the realities of today's America ALLOWS you to be. You must be saying that those who feel their economic positions are false perceptions.? You know better what their realities are.? Without the possibilities of upward economic mobility provides... all your own self-perceptions, intentions and desires are nothing more than daydreams and wishful thinking.

Once upon a time...the "American Dream" WAS possible. During those times I would have agreed with you but...not in today's America. Too many economic rungs have been severed for the vast majority to climb up with. Conversely...the Free Enterprise game is now a rigged and corrupt system of "he who has the most...gets more" and everyone else can eat their dust.

"The essence of "who" you are" is correct if indeed you are only referring to your thoughts but IS incorrect in regards to "what you want your life to be" which IS limited by reality (if you are a realist).

Stop It

Realism is different in every person even if things are equal in all factions of life. No body thinks the same as another in each and every way or circumstance. That being true, one could go way out on a limb and claim there is no such thing as reality.

Turn off the care and compassion part of yourself and see what is real.

From the Grave

Your reality is limited only by your thoughts and your perception.

Blaze

The cost of living and inflation is rising at an alarming rate and workers' raises are not even close to keeping up with it. If we keep going the way we are now there will no longer be a middle class.

Fromthe419

Blaze, you are correct. There in lies the rub...it's all about purchasing power, with the expansion of the money supply it takes more dollars to buy the same things it did just a few years ago. The hidden tax of inflation is what has killed the middle class, we take on more debt through credits cards and thus invest less of our income which hopefully will keep pace and beat inflation. The wealthiest are investing on a daily basis to beat inflation while the masses spend what they have just to feed themselves and keep a roof over their head. Until we get rid of the FED and get rid of our debt based monetary system the gap between the rich and poor will grow. This is a systemic problem geared toward those at the top of they pyramid. Just think if our government created money and loaned it to the banks rather than the FED creating money as debt to all of us. Instead of being 17.5T in the hole, we'd be 17.5T to the good. Want healthcare, no problem we could afford it, I would think this would be an idea all collectivists could get behind...end the FED and our debt based monetary system and you can't even imagine how much better our society can be. Money created for the good of the people instead of as debt of the people.

grumpy

You won't find that to be true if you look at gov't numbers. But... and it is a big but... the gov't doesn't gauge inflation and cost of living the same as it was counted in the past. GThe gov't doesn't count food or energy increases in either cost of living or inflation. They used to but both those things go up in prices before other things do and the gov't prefers to look at things in rose colored glasses, or want the sheepole to do so. They change the way those things are counted so that it is harder to compare thing from different decades. But thanks to the interwebs there are websites you can look up what the cost of living and inflation is by using the old way of counting it.

The current way to track inflation shows almost no inflation... but the old way shows inflation when you count energy (gas, electrc, and so forth). Same with cost of living. I wonder does gov't think food and energy aren't costs of living? This is your big federal gov't at work. You get the gov't you deserve when you vote the same people into office and expect them to do differently. Tis why I want more parties the the one we now have, dimopublicans or is it repubirats? We need to clean house of old fashioned thought and ways of doing things in gov't.

pntbutterandjelly

Of course more people feel their economic position is falling. That's because it is TRUE! With every passing day more money is being funneled into the hands of those who are in control. If you haven't been impacted yet...just give them time.

True Conservatives (not "Republicans") need to see where this country is headed. At the pace the wealthy are gorging themselves at ALL of our expenses ....it won't be too long before we are in the total grasp like Russia and their oligarchs now reign. "New World Order" is marching into our lives.

grumpy

At the height of his wealth, J.D. Rockefeller was worth $669 billion in 2007 dollars. The rich back then were MUCH more rich than now. Kind of goes against what you are claiming. Facts seem to be against your statements. Todays rich may be getting richer than they were 10-15 years ago, I would have to figure their wort in like year dollars and I really don't feel the need for me to do such a thing. I know the rich of the past were many times richer than those of today, The middle class had much less than today, same as the poor. The gap was hundreds, if not thousands of times bigger than it is today. But that is just facts and numbers, I am sure you don't feel that way.

Look up Rockefeller and the tycoons of his day in wiki and you will get their net worth in contemporary dollars if you want to verify the facts and numbers.

milemarkerzero

A lot of the middle class is falling below the comfort line. The lower income class is rising. Reasons for this are middle class pays for health insurance, the co-pay, and deductible. Lower class has welfare/medicade which the middle class is footing the bill for. Most hospitals write off the rest. Lower income has ObamaPhones for little to no cost. That includes more talk and text than most $60 plans have. The middle class gets the double whammy there. The lower class has food stamps, WIC, and some free school lunches. The middle class has seen their grocery bill double, and pays full boat for school lunches. The lower class are seen at the gas stations getting cigarettes, beer, and lottery tickets, only to leave on a bicycle, or dilapidated car. The middle class pays $3-$4 dollars per gallon, and leaves in a vehicle that they probably owe twice of what its worth. I could go on and on. I am one of the middle class that has had salary cut in half over the last 6-8 years, and watched as my home lost near 20% of it's value. Just sayin!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

An entire article about something which is never defined. They may as well have written something about "people don't feel like their stuff is good". It's sad to see a population with notions such as classification browbeaten into them. If you accept other people classifying you in such a way, then you accept a constant source of discord and open yourself up to endless, unnecessary worrying.

Here, this article does more to convey the point was trying to make:

"Nation Just Wants to Be Safe, Happy, Rich, Comfortable, Entertained at All Times."
http://www.theonion.com/video/na...

The Big Dog's back

The rich have classified people for a long time. Get over it.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Are you going to allow yourself to be classified by "a rich person"? Why? Don't you have more dignity than that?

But you are correct, we hear "the middle-class" all the time from Congress. As long as you accept them calling you that, they will hold power over you. The worst part is that none of them can even tell you the meaning of what they call you.

Resigning yourself to abuse by others doesn't make any kind of moral nor philosophical counterpoint to what I said. If you truly want a better life for people, I'll be happy to have you at my side as I strive to help achieve it.

grumpy

Anyone who uses the term "middle class" either won't give a definition of what it is. The most they will say is "if I have to tell you you wouldn't understand." Bet you can guess who on here said that gem when I pressured him to give a definition. Who never gives definitions of words he uses when asked?

The Big Dog's back

I gave the definition. You just refuse to accept it.

grumpy

So your definition of middle class is:

"if I have to tell you you wouldn't understand."

This is considered a definition in your so-called mind. This is the typical Obama voter and Progressive Democrat showing/demonstrating his intelligence.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

To be fair, he gets what he votes for. Many of the people in his party* (not indicating at all that Republicans are innocent of this) are very good at telling other people things without the need to support, define, or provide context to what they say. Though the question is if Big Dog is attracted to those types of people as a follower or if he is a leader that enables this behavior with his votes.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

But if he allows (and accepts) other people to call him names and classify him as something other than a sovereign human being, that would seem to indicate beta behavior. In which case he likes having other people tell him what to do, say, and think and in return for the security provided by someone else controlling him, he chooses to not question the source of his commands or information. Why bite the hand that feeds you?

Of course this is all conjecture, Big Dog I am sure can explain such things himself. Or he won't because, you know, you wouldn't understand. That was a joke.

*Party
President Barack "The Argument is Over" Obama
Senator Harry "This Bill is DOA in the Senate" Reid
Representative Nancy "Pass it to See What's in It" Pelosi

The above though is really cherry-picking the low-hanging fruit, but it is what it is. Any commentator here can feel free to add to this list or put on Republican names. But, it really is a pattern of behavior not confined to just Big Dog. If you look at how he and other party-first Democrats that post regularly here barely attempt to take the time to actually explain anything or ask critical-thinking questions.

So it must just be a personality type that the Democrat Party attracts? Hmm, speculations merely. Unfortunately there's not a large sample of overt Republicans here to compare against which indicates either the Republicans are in hiding (which at least Big Dog and others are brazen enough to label themselves...leading back to their acceptance of such practices above) or there really aren't a lot of elephants stalking the forums.

The most effort put into sourcing facts, making compelling philosophical points, countering points, asking questions, and actually putting effort into the discourse seem to be Independent/Third-Party types. But then, that would seem that our personalities are such that we are attracted to that...lifestyle? Respect for human dignity and critical thinking? Unfortunately it seems that many times this makes us "default Republicans" since there are barely any overt ones who will step up and bring another point of view to the discussion.

That's why I yearn for a literate, well-spoken, thoughtful "Democrat" (or "left-leaning" Independent) to start commenting in these forums regularly so folks like you or I can engage them in civil discourse and even be taught a thing or two. As it stands, I don't know if there is any such person.

Big Dog at least replies back frequently and I appreciate that since he makes honest efforts to get points across, as ham-handed and painfully partisan as they can be sometimes. I just wish...I just wish he could offer more. I want to know what HE thinks and why he thinks it. Not just regurgitate bumper stickers and call names.

It's a bittersweet situation, to me anyway.

grumpy

You have more patience than I do, or are more understanding. I tolerated the name calling for a few weeks when I first started posting here but after a few weeks I was tired of being called names and gave him one of my own. After a few weeks of that he rarely calls me names... but still rarely answers and rarely gives more than bumpersticker responses. The only times he uses more than three sentences is when he copies and pastes something that he never tells where he gets it from... and when I search it out is usually a left wingnut blog or an opinion piece... that he would complain if someone else would use an opinion piece or a biased right wing blog. You just have a higher tolerance than I do. I might have used up my tolerance on my kids, I do have more tolerance for my grandkid... I can give him back after I get him worked up though. I wish I could do the same with other people... give them back to someone who HAS to take them even if they just need a diaper change. (grin)

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Well, I am a Libra...

But patience comes with my job and personality. It takes a while to get a point across. Many of the points Big Dog tries to create are browbeating blitz tactics. If you say things loud and often enough you just get people to give up because they don't want to put up with it any more. It's a tried and true strategy in marketing. Because you always appear to be moving you just don't have time for thoughtful debate or be called to carpet on the things you say. It's always the immediacy. History is irrelevant. Intentions, not results, matter more. Because someone else said something that somehow makesit true and fact-repellant such as his uncredited copying of the Salon opinion piece despite earlier disavowing such things.

But it takes patience. Determination. Civility. If Big Dog only surrounds himself with unquestioning, like-minded people then it makes sense why he isn't prepared to answer questions or explain his thoughts. It's a presumption made from over a year of interaction with him, but what else do I have to go on? So I want to give him the benefit of the doubt as I believe we should for all humans and take things one step at a time.

I'll tell you he at least has the decency to reply back unlike so many other driveby posters and I respect him for that! I just wish that it wasn't painful for him to agree with a non-Democrat when we share many similar passions, ideals, and a desire to advance society.

There you go again

Say it ain't so, Mr. Obama. I thought you were all for income equality!?!? Oh, wait, you mean welfare and free phones. food, insurance, schooling won't get you into middle class? Hmmm, we must be doing something wrong here. Maybe it is because people don't need to work full time anymore now that they have free health care..isn't that what Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and Biden have proposed? Gee, maybe if we all got jobs, made money, spent money then we'd be back in middle class. Hey, I didn't make this stuff up!

deertracker

You watch way too much faux news or you did make that stuff up. Educate yourself.

Donegan

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/el...
Educate YOURSELF. Obamacare snuck in the federal student loan program who is now gouging students, That's your government and what you voted for. Maybe you and those who voted for the guy should foot the bill?

Donegan

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/el...
Educate YOURSELF. Obamacare snuck in the federal student loan program who is now gouging students, That's your government and what you voted for. Maybe you and those who voted for the guy should foot the bill?

Dr. Information

If anyone needs to educate themselves its deertracker. Obama could literally be a turd with a tie on and he'd vote for him.

meowmix

As I propped up my head with my hands, to avoid the potential of my falling asleep reading through HZ's 10:18 PM post, it dawned upon me that Mr. Zone really is in a "class" by himself. As identified below:

Egotism is a term that is used to describe the concept of being particularly boastful, narcissistic and arrogant. Egotistical people typically think overly highly of themselves in terms of their capabilities, intelligence, humor and physical appearance.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Your opinion and classification of me does nothing to address the very reasonable concerns I have nor points I have made. Instead of taking the time to thoughtfully prove me wrong you have instead gone out of your way to try and insult and degrade another human being. Is that what being a Democrat is about? I'm curious.

Let's say that I am egotistical. Why do I consistently invite replies then? How is it I am still able to long for conversation with someone who can "put me in my place"? What of anything have I said or done here that is" overly highly" of myself?

Nothing I write is overly difficult to understand (and is frequently sourced) so unless you have narcolepsy I'd urge you to not undermine your own intelligence publicly. I have tried to appeal to it on numerous occasions as well as, for example, Big Dog's.

Did you ever reply to my offer to explain any of my convictions to you after you called me out for supposedly violating them? Have you ever taken me up on my open and honest invitation to provide factual counterpoints to anything I've said? Aside from shortening your username to "Meow", have I ever called you petty names or treated you as some enemy or dehumanized foil?

I would submit that I haven't, especially as I invited you to see who I am after being labeled with insulting stereotypes by you. Or was that humor?

meowmix

That my dear HZ, was humor. But, you took immediate offense and launched into an over-long diatribe. Believe me, I really didn't have to "go out of my way" to obviously find your Achilles heel. :}

Besides, I could offer up responses to your questions you pose but I find I sometimes just don't have the strength to muddle through 10 paragraphs of inanity.

Have a great weekend!

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

You as well.

You may have found my soft spot but be careful in firing arrows at it. Many of the people who come to my store could be considered "bully bait". Because they say or do things that are different, or "act smart", they are often called names and ridiculed for being who they are and liking what they like.

Depression and suicide are unfortunate results of this treatment.

I do everything I can to empower them, encourage high expectations, and to have answers for those who call them out for being different. So invoke my "weakness" as you see fit but understand the reason for my responses when you do.

ohioengineer

One has only to look at history to understand the demise of the Middle Class. Capitalism was the dominant economic force in this nation for the first 200 years of its existence. During that time the Middle Class thrived and grew. Sure, people got very rich at the top, but simultaneously millions of Americans pulled themselves from poverty using hard work and the opportunities afforded by the very Capitalism that is so often derided today. Then we decided that Capitalism was old-fashioned and instead we should copy the enlightened Europeans and their socialism. So for the past 25 or so years we have embraced socialism and the concept of economic equality for all.

Remember the old saying to be careful what you wish for? Well, guess what: as the article points out, we have gotten what we wished for. Today, more and more Americans are in fact "gaining" economic equality; unfortunately, this equality exists at the bottom of the economic ladder.

But the most amazing thing about this mess we have created for ourselves is that the proposed solution by our government and the so-called experts is more socialism! Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Socialism got us into this mess, adding more socialism is not going to get us out of it.

Capitalism has many faults and is certainly messy. It is also uncontrollable - something that drives the government control freaks crazy. In fact, Capitalism is probably the worst economic model there is - except for all the rest. (With apologies to Winston Churchill.)

Bottom line: if you want a large, vibrant Middle Class embrace Capitalism. If you want economic equality - think of the old Soviet Union - embrace socialism.

grumpy

Well thought out points, short and to the point, and very nicely communicated. I salute both your thoughts and the way you expressed them.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

While I don't agree with the concept of a middle class actually existing, what you are talking about was birthed during the Enlightenment and went by several different notioins: "spontaneous order", "civil society", and the "invisible hand".

“The result of human action, but not the execution of any human design.”

Unfortunately these topics and philosophies aren't, in my opinion, instilled in students as thoroughly as they should be. The thoughts born of the Enlightenment aren't touched upon and it just seems that our nation was born of ignorant savages instead of thoughtful men of reason and a philosophy that was both ahead of its time and unable to be practiced in the very continent we apparently seek to emulate now because of oppressive conditions.

To read more on this in summary and with links to other very good reading, I'd suggest you check out: http://oll.libertyfund.org/group...

pntbutterandjelly

Back to the article's main topic...
There are now more millionaires and billionaires in the U.S. and world-wide than ever in history. On the surface that could be construed as a "good thing" or...not. I have absolutely NOTHING against someone becoming insanely wealthy. What I DO have a major issue with is 1) Did they attain their wealth "fairly"? That is...by bringing up those who work for them or from whom they acquire their raw materials, 2) What are they doing with their wealth? That is...are they hoarding it or are they making great efforts to help others and make the world a better place or...are they using it to suppress those with less in order to gain additional wealth for themselves while simultaneously...in an attempt to purchase ever greater power? Those who suppress others and lust for more money and power are THE problem. If allowed...that type of sub-human will take everything they can with no remorse for those they hurt.
"They are the ones who are causing the gross income stratification the middle-class" are being impacted by."

Fair play, morality, social responsibility and the rule of many are being prostituted by un-restrained lust for $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

It will be the internal downfall of our country.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I will copy and paste what I wrote to Babo in another story in the hopes you may actually be willing to discuss things like a civil human being instead of tossing out pieces like this from whatever ivory tower you've decided to cloister in recently (a move that disappoints me because I don't remember you being this way before):

= = = = = = = = = =

...What the Supreme Court ruled isn't necessarily "bad". For one and those who knee-jerk it as being so (understandably) it gets us talking about term limits. After all, lifetime Senators such as Mitch McConnell from Kentucky no longer can nor will have a use for warchests built over 30 years to squash any primary opposition nor outspend others by an increasing amount if they are limited to, say, 12 years maximum in Congress (as either or both Representative or Senator, of course Senators need to go back to being delegated by the States and not popularly elected, which will also handle a huge money issue. We can talk about that more too if you want.)

But consider this. With the ruling that was just placed, what need is there for the myriad of confusing PACs, Super PACs, etc. that came from the campaign finance reform of before? Isn't it funny how a bill that was supposed to make things more fair set up a baffling array of organizations the public can't keep track of, still included the ability for so-called "dark money" to be generated, and yet we STILL had record-breaking political collections especially for our current President?

With this ruling, now a bill can be passed that simply says something along the lines of "Any U.S. citizen or U.S. Corporation can donate any amount they wish, however all donations must be public record." That bill is both easy to understand by the public, makes the public able to access who gave what to whom, and holds donors responsible for their contributions. Where is there a loss to the citizenry in this?

Also consider this: because this breaks the special powers to hide and manipulate money by PACs (and their ilk) it encourages donors to donate to candidates instead of parties or organizations. That is a practice I would recommend for people to do anyway. Support a candidate you believe in, not a party because you will inevitably be betrayed by the party who will support their GOBs over fresh faces who actually wish to enact beneficent change in the way things are done.

pntbutterandjelly

@ The Hero Zone; "oppressive conditions" is correct.

Mankind has battled this since time immortal. The Human brain is deeply hard-wired for "fight or flight", "survival of the fittest" and goes beyond simple competiveness into aggressiveness and full-fledged greed by some. When left without adequate and enforced checks and balances (laws, rules, regulations)...it can only evolve into total corruption, wars of greed and control be a few.

Throughout the eons the human race has struggled with equality. Fiefdoms, kingdoms and personal empires are the end results if left unchecked. And, as much as our founding fathers understood and attempted to instill regulations to create checks and balances...greed (massive income inequality followed by enslavement) is now rearing its ugly prescience again.

Too much (and growing exponentially) money in the American legislative and judicial system is drowning out the multitudes' voices.

If not resolved through common sense Democratic means we will be left, as all historical norms show, with choices; a) submission or b)revolution.

Did we all think America would come to this?

"oppressive conditions"

pntbutterandjelly

Freedom of speech MUST NOT be equated into "he who has the most money has the loudest voice".

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

So how do you plan to limit free speech? It's not a loaded question, I am honestly curious. As an example: if we are each on the corner shouting to the public our opinions but you bought a megaphone to be louder than me do I have the right to strip you of your megaphone? Can nobody ever compete any more than anyone else? In that case, how else must we conform? We must wear the same clothes, be no taller nor shorter than each other, agree on makeup to wear, and time each of our listeners to hear us for only so long before we require them to go to the other person to hear their story for the same amount of time?

There will ALWAYS be money in politics and a war on that will be just as successful as the "war on drugs". Instead of wasting time, effort, and brainpower on ways to fight against the inevitable, why don't we accept that fact and do things to limit the use of the money by, say, term limits for Congress? Term limits for the Supreme Court? Full public access to donation records since manipulative PACs no longer are relevant?

Let's continue discussing this, I think it is an important topic for you, I, and others reading this to study and think about.

EDIT: P.S. - Thanks for replying. It's appreciated.

grumpy

You have a right to free speech. You don't have a right to an audience. Also free speech IS limited. If you are in court, on the stand after taking the oath and not speak the truth you can be punished for using your free speech. Copying others published works without permission can also be punished. Publicly lying about someone, especially in print, can also bring a lawsuit. Free speech is not limitless, nor is it equal, some people can attract an audience and some folks can't, so "equality" in free speech is not something any law can provide. Some folks seem to want equality in free speech, it won't ever happen. Some folks are richer than others... and can donate more to politicians if they choose to. Some folks can draw a crowd when they speak and some folks drive folks away when they open their mouths. Free speech is limited by you pocket book and by your ability to speak, a law can not, and should not make either equal. The opportunity to spend and speak are already the same for each. For one having more money and another the ability to draw an audience is not guaranteed by the gov't. The most a gov't can do is force the more talented to be brought down to the least talented. Gov't can't give the less talented, more talent it can at most, take away.

pntbutterandjelly

@ Hero Zone, (4/05/14); "I am honestly curious."

R.S.V.P. Thank you for your invitation to actually discuss this topic. I cordially accept your offer with the following observations, thoughts and ideas and will do so with an honest, thoughtful and open-minded reply.

First, you and I must somehow agree to disagree that 1) I am not attempting to limit freedom of speech (I actually am a firm believer of EVERYONE being heard),(read more below under "Greece" for a better understanding of that highly serious and committed comment) but having said that 2) I can not and will accept that infusing more capital into our nomination and election processes from single donors is "good" nor does that concept give credence to or endanger "free speech". "Follow the money", "money begets money" and "it takes money to make money" are not simple, off-the-cuff clichés but rather are truisms. Money used improperly, in all applications and contexts, can only give rise to influence via an assortment of avenues. Hence money's corrosive influence is a corruptive factor wherever, whenever and by whomever supplies and/or receives it. It is true in business activities and is especially true in the "business" of politics as that is what our electoral process has sadly become. A business. If money's impact does NOT hold much worth or importance in politics...then why do campaigns require an ever escalating and seemingly unquenchable thirst for more? Influencing through mass marketing.

Our nation's foundations of governance were primarily patterned from those of ancient Greece. There...everyone, regardless of their lot in life, educational levels, age, gender or income strata were expected to serve when called upon to perform their civic duty in the position of "governing". That single but extremely important difference kept fresh ideas coming to the forefront and...circumvented the influence of the powerful from seizing control. Those powerful could be individuals or....collections of individuals. Balance was thus accorded and maintained for the continuance of the whole rather than for a few. This method assured the best and fairest form of a Representative Democracy.

Here then are my thoughts to achieving "balance". Some of which you have already stated.
1) Term limits at all levels
2) Eliminate all lobbyists
3) Sevier penalties for influence pedaling, ie. lobbying and other forms of "pay to play"
4) Publically-funded campaigns (Each candidate would receive the same amount of money from the government by which to promote their ideas. It may seem extreme but...that practice should also encompass campaigns and elections at all levels. The amounts of available money are arbitrary but the ramifications would create fairness, integrity and balance.

Now, what say you?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

1. Yes
2. Good in concept but impossible. You'll have better luck trying to get a Congressman to recuse himself from a vote because of some minor conflict in interest to a contractor, etc. Lobbyists are the chaff that will fall from the wheat when number one is enacted.
3. Marijuana and alcohol
4. I would need you to present more information for me to make a comment on this.

"If money's impact does NOT hold much worth or importance in politics...then why do campaigns require an ever escalating and seemingly unquenchable thirst for more? Influencing through mass marketing."

Why? When was the last time in recent history a campaign had a message? When was the last time the candidate was a communicative statesman? When you have nothing to say nor can you say it effectively, you have to rely on shouting as loud as you can to browbeat, subdue, or aggravate people into action instead of inspiring them with compelling, logical reasons.

Inefficient items require ever more vast resources to consume to do the same thing an efficient item can. I would submit that we have had extremely inefficient candidates of late. Take the last campaign for example. Gov. Romney lost and spent about $900M. President Obama won with $1B.

Is this President a billion-dollar man? Did we get what was paid for?

grumpy

Re: "Here then are my thoughts to achieving "balance". Some of which you have already stated.
1) Term limits at all levels
2) Eliminate all lobbyists
3) Sevier penalties for influence pedaling, ie. lobbying and other forms of "pay to play"
4) Publically-funded campaigns (Each candidate would receive the same amount of money from the government by which to promote their ideas. It may seem extreme but...that practice should also encompass campaigns and elections at all levels. The amounts of available money are arbitrary but the ramifications would create fairness, integrity and balance.

Now, what say you?"

I am not HZ but...

I would go that way also. A few years ago I would have not gone with gov't money going to candidates but now would give each parties candidate... not just the "major" parties but anyone who got over 3% of the total vote in the primary $100 million... no one needs a billion, and have gov't pay for airing 25 mandatory debates. The debates would be mandatory. I would like 25 but would accept 15, the more the better, go heads up face to face and debate the issues of the day.

No other entities can spend money on issue adds or peromote any candidate. No union newsletters, no trade newsletters, no TV, magazine adds, no radio, no tv that isn't paid for with the 100 million gov't money. No free help all help is paid with the gov't money. limited 4 months time frame for election... primary and general election. 6 months at most but would prefer 4.

grumpy

I forgot to add no donations to the candidates... including their own money. They have to make due with $100 million and the debates, no outside money. The gov't money is tied to the inflation rate so it stays the same with iflation added in each 4 years. Similar gov't money for US Congress races.