03 January, 2012

Middle Class America, too big to fail.

By Jorge Reyes

There was a time when the United States had the largest middle class that the world has ever seen. We were the ones too big to fail, to quote a slogan made popular by those much maligned group of people known as Occupy Wall Street. There was a time when, like my parents and grandparents, we were able to buy homes, cars, and many of the things that made this country great. Unfortunately, as you well know, that is rapidly changing. Sadly, also, politicians do not even seem to be aware of this, or are simply ignoring this fact.

The statistics that you are about to read prove beyond a doubt that the U.S. middle class is dying right in front of our eyes as we enter 2012. In fact, the middle class American is poor America, make no bones about it.
This has not been a sudden decline.  It has been slowly corroding our way of living on the edges. Millions of our jobs have disappeared, the rate of inflation has far outpaced the rate of wages, and overwhelming debt, including student loan debt for our youth, has choked the financial life out of millions. Every single day, more Americans fall out of the middle class and into poverty. In fact, more Americans fell into poverty last year than has ever been recorded before. The number of middle class jobs and middle class neighborhoods continues to decline at a staggering pace. But let me give you an example.

Today I went to a local supermarket. The prices of items, even those on sale, were so high that for the time I wondered how any family makes it. Which is why, I guess, so many people have started to go on food stamps. With savings, genetic brands and coupons, I paid over $100 total. Another social issue about to explode is the housing crisis. All those families thrown out of their homes in the foreclosure debacle will, eventually, become renters. Any cursory look at the rents in my local community will simply become appalling. A small studio, $800 to $900. A one bedroom apartment $1,000. And so on.
This is a social embarrassment.   The broad based swathe of people that built this nation has become an anachronism, another myth to defend which, nonetheless, remains a myth.  The problem might be that a new redefinition of what middle class is be needed. 

When the cost of the basic things that we need - housing, food, gas, housing, electricity - go up faster than our incomes do, that means we are getting poorer.