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Subject: The impoverishing middle class rss

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Chad
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Some questions for you:

How many televisions does your family own?
How many phones does your family own?
How many cars does your family own?
....


Todays lower middle class is the equivelent of 1950/1960s lower upper class.

I do not deny that incomes are under pressure - but the fact that you can buy so much more for your money never seems to be accounted for in these discussions about how the middle class is getting f'ed over.
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Stephen Mcleod
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You can buy much lower quality food but buying food of equivalent quality is going to cost you well over an hour of minimum wage per meal.

You can buy dishwashers, hot water heaters, stoves, and refrigerators at lower prices... but they break within 5 to 7 years. Much lower quality.

You can buy a lot of plastic stuff that used to be made of wood or metal. Sure- it's a chair but it's going to wear out faster.

Similarly for clothing and a lot of other items. Quality clothing is going to cost you $75 for a shirt- pants $125. Gasoline is $4-- about double what it was back then-- and it's lower quality with lower gas mileage (3% per government tests--- 5%-8% in actual use tests).

You CAN indeed get a larger house than back then... but on a much smaller lot.

You can buy a computer which is new.
You can buy a motorized tooth brush for $75.

It's really the rare, high quality stuff and rare locations where you are bid out.

A vacation that might have been nearly free now runs $375 to $575 a night.

Beachfront property? $50k inflation adjusted entry price in the 1950's vs $700k price today.

Because the top 1% is taking so much of the income- anything like that rare collectable item is going to be bid to ridiculous prices.

When the bank president made 30x your income, you might actually save up enough to compete with him for collectables or lakefront property. When they make 450x your income, you are shut out.

And while you might be able to retire back then at 65- today you work until you die. Partially people's fault.

You *can* live well on $50k a year and save enough to retire at 55. Lots of people do it. they just don't have new cars or other new stuff as often.

But income and wealth are very skewed to a tiny group of the population.

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Ken
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Utrecht wrote:
Todays lower middle class is the equivelent of 1950/1960s lower upper class.


I'm sorry, but this is simply a load of manure. Today's lower middle class may have stuff that the lower upper class of the past would only have had access to, but you may as well suggest that owning a car today is effectively the same as owning a carriage and stable of horses to pull it in the middle ages. Class isn't about "stuff" (in a purely economic sense), it's about the accumulation of wealth & assets and the ability to "ride out" economic issues without a significant decline in same and/or living standards.

Today's poor may have access to things that would make an intinerant farmer from 1820 think they were endowed with endless wealth, but that's a stupid comparison. Class is relative to the time you're examining and relates (economically) to what happens to the family/individual when there's a loss of income. People in the upper class will be better able to weather such a storm, particularly over a protracted period, and are far more likely to emerge from such an issue in better shape. As you move down the income/wealth chain, the dynamics become far more drastic.
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Chad
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It is not just the stuff. It is everything.

How much leasure time does today's lower middle class have compared to what was present in 1950's.

What % of income is dedicated to entertainment purposes now than in the 50's

How many vacations does the current lower middle class take?

What is the % of home ownership now as opposed to the 1950s? (hell, I would even through in lot size aand argue that lot sizes are bigger now than they used to be - but that is anecdotal)

All of these things are dramatically up over the last 60 years.

However, Ken, you are arguing a different thing, wealth disparity - but we have had this discussion before. My point here is that compaining about the loss of "middle-class" is a bit of a false whine since the opportuniteis (entertainment, travel, investment) and quality of life is considerably higher now.
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Chad
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sorry, felt that I was not articulating my point as well as I could.

I STRONGLY beleive that there are two elements to "class"

1) Income
2) What you can purchase/purchasing power

I will not argue that the lower middle class has slid back on the first part - and I beleive Ken (and all) that is what you are arguing.

However, my point is that this is MORE than off set by the second. What one can purchase now is crazy to what you could in years past - and this second point is always lost/glossed over in the reminising about the "good ole days".
 
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Ed Bradley
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Utrecht wrote:
It is not just the stuff. It is everything.

How much leasure time does today's lower middle class have compared to what was present in 1950's.

What % of income is dedicated to entertainment purposes now than in the 50's

How many vacations does the current lower middle class take?

What is the % of home ownership now as opposed to the 1950s? (hell, I would even through in lot size aand argue that lot sizes are bigger now than they used to be - but that is anecdotal)

All of these things are dramatically up over the last 60 years.


Citation needed.

Also: why are we holding up the post-war 1950s as a benchmark? From the OPs account the 1970s or possibly 80s would be a better comparison.

And not just US figures, if possible.

A significant chunk of the Western world is suffering declining living standards. It would be nice to be able to discuss it without being told to shut up because we've never had it so good.
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The welfare of the rich countries' lower classes during the second half of the 20th century was an anomaly, brought about by a number of exceptional circumstances - which won't come back.

Workers of the West will see their real disposable income rise again once the world is so globalised that cheap labor runs out in inner Asia and Africa and/or when there is a global fiscal structure in place so that the wealth of the world can be more effectively redistributed and/or when new technology allows us to once again feast on cheap energy like foxes in a hen-house. If it's of any comfort, some of this might well happen before it's our time to throw the keyboard away, dust off the board game collection and count which friends are still in shape for a game or ten.

If you want to earn more in the meanwhile - analyze and adjust. Whining nostalgia by the assembly line won't change much.
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Ed Bradley
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Mondainai wrote:
analyze and adjust.


Two words to dismiss a potentially enormous amount of mental, physical and financial effort. It's a cheap shot.

Is the economy supposed to service human needs or vice-versa?
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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Fwing wrote:
Utrecht wrote:
It is not just the stuff. It is everything.

How much leasure time does today's lower middle class have compared to what was present in 1950's.

What % of income is dedicated to entertainment purposes now than in the 50's

How many vacations does the current lower middle class take?

What is the % of home ownership now as opposed to the 1950s? (hell, I would even through in lot size aand argue that lot sizes are bigger now than they used to be - but that is anecdotal)

All of these things are dramatically up over the last 60 years.


Citation needed.

Also: why are we holding up the post-war 1950s as a benchmark? From the OPs account the 1970s or possibly 80s would be a better comparison.

And not just US figures, if possible.

A significant chunk of the Western world is suffering declining living standards. It would be nice to be able to discuss it without being told to shut up because we've never had it so good.


Lets take 80ies.

Here is a page with the historical median family incomes in the USA:
http://www.davemanuel.com/median-household-income.php

Here is a page with some prices of appliances in the 80ies:
http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/80selectrical.html


Whirlpool dishwasher in the 1980 was $228 which makes it 1.4% of annual income for the median family.
Whirlpool dishwasher today can be had (Sears website) for $329 or 0.8% of the annual family income for the median family, making it 42% more affordable to such a family.

Sony, 19inch TV could be had for $499 (2.6% of median annual income) in 1982. These days Amazon will sell you 31 inch Sony (with high definition and all the bells and whistles) for $328 (again, 0.8% of household income) staggering 70% increase in affordability even when excluding the actual technological improvement between two models.

Moving from technology to food:
According to bureau of labour statistics

http://data.bls.gov/pdq/SurveyOutputServlet

Average price of a boneless round steak went from $2.74 a pound in January 1980 to $4.08 in January 2010. This represents the drop to almost a half from 0.016% to 0.0083% of median household annual income.

Bananas went form $0.319 a pound to $0.586 representing a drop from 1.9E-5 to 1.2E-5, a drop of 37%.

Similar drops can be caclulated for practically every food - healthy and otherwise - on the BoL list.

Consider vacations:

(This one was a bit of a pain for cogent data so excuse poor-ish source, though I am reasonably certain numbers are legit)
http://www.wwaytv3.com/node/1314

In 1982, cheapest airfare from New York to Miami was $188 (1%) but in 2007 it was $158 which is to say 0.3% !! (Thank you Ronald Reagan)

According to American Hotels and Lodging association, average room rate in 1980 was $45.4 (0.27%) compared with $103 in 2007 (0.21%)

I won't even go into things like clothing, books and music where I believe we can all agree prices have plummeted over the last few decades.

In conclusion - in USA at least, great recession notwithstanding, median household is 30% to 100% better off in terms of purchasing power today then they were in 1980ies.

They may suffer from envy at the fact that some have gotten even richer then they - but in terms of actual living standards - including such important things as healthy food, vacations and books - they are indisputably in better shape then they ever have been by a significant margin.

I would be very surprised if the numbers did not turn up very similar for the UK and even more so for Canada.
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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Fwing wrote:
Mondainai wrote:
analyze and adjust.


Two words to dismiss a potentially enormous amount of mental, physical and financial effort. It's a cheap shot.

Is the economy supposed to service human needs or vice-versa?


Neither.
Economy mediates between different human needs. "Adjusting to the economy" simply means adjusting to what other humans need from you so that you can get what you need from them.
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Paul Doherty
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Utrecht wrote:
Some questions for you:

How many televisions does your family own?
How many phones does your family own?
How many cars does your family own?
....


Todays lower middle class is the equivelent of 1950/1960s lower upper class.

I do not deny that incomes are under pressure - but the fact that you can buy so much more for your money never seems to be accounted for in these discussions about how the middle class is getting f'ed over.


How is that even relevant? Middle class is always defined by current standards.

Are you going to compare our standard of living to cavemen next?
 
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Fwing wrote:
Mondainai wrote:
analyze and adjust.


Two words to dismiss a potentially enormous amount of mental, physical and financial effort. It's a cheap shot.

Is the economy supposed to service human needs or vice-versa?

I'm the first to throw up a little when I hear a suit-and-tie tell someone "just get a suit-and-tie and an education like I did" because it often really means "just be born upper middle-class like I was, and get support from educated, affluent, well-meaning parents like I got, how hard can it be" (or "achieve super-determination and be at the right place at the right time with the right idea like I was")

I'm all for taxation and redistribution. But I can't see that there is enough taxable wealth around to give large numbers with low productivity a steadily rising real income. And to the extent there is, I don't see why people with my type of passport, who do live a relatively comfortable life, should be the ones to support.

So, if you're only in the 2nd global decile, and somehow think you deserve to be in the 1st global decile because your parents were or because people on TV are, then work for it. Or make yourself a cup of tea, open an exciting novel about coal miners in the 19th century and realise that life is pretty fkn sweet.
 
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pdoherty wrote:
How is that even relevant? Middle class is always defined by current standards.

Are you going to compare our standard of living to cavemen next?
People whose happiness depends too heavily on their place in the hierarchy have better sell all their stuff, move to a poor country, start teaching English and stay miles away from TV. Finally rich by current standards, mission achieved, life won!
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Ed Bradley
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bramadan wrote:
Fwing wrote:
Utrecht wrote:
It is not just the stuff. It is everything.

How much leasure time does today's lower middle class have compared to what was present in 1950's.

What % of income is dedicated to entertainment purposes now than in the 50's

How many vacations does the current lower middle class take?

What is the % of home ownership now as opposed to the 1950s? (hell, I would even through in lot size aand argue that lot sizes are bigger now than they used to be - but that is anecdotal)

All of these things are dramatically up over the last 60 years.


Citation needed.

Also: why are we holding up the post-war 1950s as a benchmark? From the OPs account the 1970s or possibly 80s would be a better comparison.

And not just US figures, if possible.

A significant chunk of the Western world is suffering declining living standards. It would be nice to be able to discuss it without being told to shut up because we've never had it so good.


Lets take 80ies.

Here is a page with the historical median family incomes in the USA:
http://www.davemanuel.com/median-household-income.php

Here is a page with some prices of appliances in the 80ies:
http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/80selectrical.html


Whirlpool dishwasher in the 1980 was $228 which makes it 1.4% of annual income for the median family.
Whirlpool dishwasher today can be had (Sears website) for $329 or 0.8% of the annual family income for the median family, making it 42% more affordable to such a family.

Sony, 19inch TV could be had for $499 (2.6% of median annual income) in 1982. These days Amazon will sell you 31 inch Sony (with high definition and all the bells and whistles) for $328 (again, 0.8% of household income) staggering 70% increase in affordability even when excluding the actual technological improvement between two models.

Moving from technology to food:
According to bureau of labour statistics

http://data.bls.gov/pdq/SurveyOutputServlet

Average price of a boneless round steak went from $2.74 a pound in January 1980 to $4.08 in January 2010. This represents the drop to almost a half from 0.016% to 0.0083% of median household annual income.

Bananas went form $0.319 a pound to $0.586 representing a drop from 1.9E-5 to 1.2E-5, a drop of 37%.

Similar drops can be caclulated for practically every food - healthy and otherwise - on the BoL list.

Consider vacations:

(This one was a bit of a pain for cogent data so excuse poor-ish source, though I am reasonably certain numbers are legit)
http://www.wwaytv3.com/node/1314

In 1982, cheapest airfare from New York to Miami was $188 (1%) but in 2007 it was $158 which is to say 0.3% !! (Thank you Ronald Reagan)

According to American Hotels and Lodging association, average room rate in 1980 was $45.4 (0.27%) compared with $103 in 2007 (0.21%)

I won't even go into things like clothing, books and music where I believe we can all agree prices have plummeted over the last few decades.

In conclusion - in USA at least, great recession notwithstanding, median household is 30% to 100% better off in terms of purchasing power today then they were in 1980ies.

They may suffer from envy at the fact that some have gotten even richer then they - but in terms of actual living standards - including such important things as healthy food, vacations and books - they are indisputably in better shape then they ever have been by a significant margin.

I would be very surprised if the numbers did not turn up very similar for the UK and even more so for Canada.


That's all lovely but the amount of my salary that I spend on white good and air fares is pretty fucking negligible. It doesn't matter what percentage of average income these things costs when people on average incomes can't afford them.

I spend most of my money on energy and food. In the UK those have risen about 20% in the last 3 years and they're still rising. At the same time my wages have basically gone "pay cut/freeze/raise 3% under inflation".

That's before we even start discussing the relative durability of white goods in the 80s and now.

Either way, and this goes to Mondainai as well, you can crow about how "we've never had it so good". Balls. Most of us had it better 5 years ago. The general trajectory of the "middle class" is downwards and the only argument is whether that downward trend will accelerate or decelerate.

All this "adapt" crap is just nonsense. Society and the individual have never been conditioned or prepared for the amount of "adaption" being asked of us now. Some people lack the ability to analyse their situation properly and even more than that aren't able to adapt very easily.

Bramadan: The economy acts as a filter on those "needs of other humans". It currently contains several distorted, unsustainable sets of incentives that are leading to massive misallocation of capital and resources. I think there's a lot of scope for "analyzing and adapting" our economic systems to be less destructive and more effective before we blithely go and as the whole of humanity to "suck it up" in order to pursue shareholder value.
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Ken
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I don't have a great deal of time this morning, but there was a statement that "losing the middle class" isn't necessarily a problem or wasn't a large problem. That deserves a response. Losing the middle class or seeing the middle class struggle is a huge problem because it's the middle class that is the real grease for the economic engine. They're the class that launches small business, the ones that can start tucking away sufficient money to have greater stability, and the ones that spend their income at a level that drives demand. They're also the ones that generally get their kids educated and keep us "up to speed" for future growth.

I care far less about the stuff that we can buy or how affordable it is relative to income - the changing basket of goods that we want is never stable enough to make those comparisons interesting to me. I care that the nations and economies that are successful over the long term are those that have an active and stable middle class to maintain their economic activity and be ready for the future. That's what I'm concerned with - if we are seeing shrinking middle class incomes(and I think there's plenty to show we are), that's a very bad thing for us in the future.
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We need to be careful not to conflate different issues: There is no inconsistency between having a greater amount of purchasing power and having a lesser amount of financial security. And it's the combination of both that has always identified the classic middle class.

Life has always been tough for most people and this shouldn't be forgotten by gilding the past. But neither should recent changes be minimised. People have been accustomed to being able to plan their life, and predict - with admittedly some uncertainty - their future income. This could be through formal job security, informal job security (through low unemployment rates and market demand) or through retirement and pensions.

When people have a reduced ability to predict their future incomes it is more difficult for them to plan today. Can I buy a house? a car? which one? What about education and health? The greater the uncertainty, the greater number of people who will find they were over-optimistic and when there is some financial shock (unemployment, economic downturn, family death, accident etc) will be placed into financial stress with commitments they can't fulfill.

Change itself is a cost that is often overlooked. If I have to move house because of a change in financial circumstances there are direct and indirect costs. Not only is there a cost of moving, but also the cost of changing all the other life elements that have been structured around the earlier life pattern - need for a car v public transport, need for child care, closeness to family support, which school, convenience to job etc. etc.

So even if the median purchasing power improves, volatility and unpredictability at an individual level has a cost on its own. This cost is not just financial, but psychological - the stress of uncertainty, risk and the increasing numbers of personal financial crisis.

After all, problems are all ultimately best measured in psychological terms - purchasing power is at best an indirect measure of well-being. The various flavours of happiness are direct ones.
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The definition of middle class is interesting. It's something I've discussed a fair amount as I would define myself firmly as middle class, but I have family members who define themselves as working class "made good" and aren't comfortable with the term.

When people say "middle class" they seem to mean someone who falls into one or more of the following categories:

* University educated or above.
* Earning around or slightly above the national medium.
* A member of the classical "professions" such as lawyers, doctors, architects etc. It's worth noting these people usually earn significantly more than the national medium.

Personally, I tend to always mean the middle definition. But a lot of quality newspapers and magazines who are aimed at that demographic use the third one. And a lot of working class people tend to use the first one. What constitutes middle class depends very much on where you stand on the social scale.

Anyway, as per this discussion, I can only really relate my personal circumstances. Thanks to wage depression and government austerity, I'm earning less now than I was five years ago, in spite of having a more skilled & responsible job. And the price of essentials, especially food and energy, has shot up. I've cut back on almost everything: I buy basic brand groceries, I've got the cheapest internet & energy supplies I can find, we eat out maybe once every two months instead of once every two weeks, I'm holidaying in the UK this year and the idea of having any discretionary spending seems like a pipe-dream. All that, and I'm still currently eating into my savings at the rate of £200 a month. Fairly soon there will have to be some major sacrifices made in terms of our lifestyle.

And you want to know the real kicker? Our household income is roughly the UK average. It makes me sick to think how people who earn less than we do are suffering right now. And it makes me equally sick to know that nothing that I did has bought me to this place: I still work hard at my 9-5 and do the best I can, while the bulk of those responsible in finance and government continue to enjoy the lifestyle of the rich and famous, since six and seven figures salaries tend to function as effective cushions against massive inflation and wage freezes.
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If you buy luxuries before you have a safety net, you are putting yourself at risk. I am not saying don't do it, but acknowledge that you are rolling the dice and it may not be a good idea.

So before you get a cell phone, new TV, new car, etc., make sure you have a backup plan and/or acknowledge that you may lose everything if things go south.

There will always be people that can afford more than you (except for one person), live with it.
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MattDP wrote:
The definition of middle class is interesting. It's something I've discussed a fair amount as I would define myself firmly as middle class, but I have family members who define themselves as working class "made good" and aren't comfortable with the term.

When people say "middle class" they seem to mean someone who falls into one or more of the following categories:

* University educated or above.
* Earning around or slightly above the national medium.
* A member of the classical "professions" such as lawyers, doctors, architects etc. It's worth noting these people usually earn significantly more than the national medium.

It's interesting how the definition varies and I've noticed that the UK definition of "middle-class" is quite different from what is used in Australia and the US. In the UK, "middle-class" people are often quite wealthy, well educated and almost an elite. In Australia, pretty much anyone with a white-collar job would consider themselves middle-class.
 
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[q="Fwing"]
Quote:
That's all lovely but the amount of my salary that I spend on white good and air fares is pretty fucking negligible. It doesn't matter what percentage of average income these things costs when people on average incomes can't afford them.


Where is the proof that they can't afford them? I am going to pick on dishwashing machines since I easily googled the numbers. The % of US homes that have Dish Washing Machines has increased from 42% in 1985 to 58% in 2003 (latest I could find)

http://www.allianceforwaterefficiency.org/Residential_Dishwa...

Quote:

I spend most of my money on energy and food. In the UK those have risen about 20% in the last 3 years and they're still rising. At the same time my wages have basically gone "pay cut/freeze/raise 3% under inflation".


You spend more than 50% of your income on energy and food? OR do you meant that you spend more than 50% of your post housing income on food and energy? I am trying to understand where you come up with this.

Regarding your complaints about energy/food - yep, but using a 3 year sample that occurs over a global recession is definately not "proof" that the middle class is dissapearing.

Quote:

That's before we even start discussing the relative durability of white goods in the 80s and now.


This is certainly a fair point.... However the counter to this is the dramatic increase and availability of DIY repair capabilities (less appropriate for TVs or Washing Machines)

Quote:

Either way, and this goes to Mondainai as well, you can crow about how "we've never had it so good". Balls. Most of us had it better 5 years ago. The general trajectory of the "middle class" is downwards and the only argument is whether that downward trend will accelerate or decelerate.


I am sorry - but you are skewing the results here by stating that our measuring stick is the last 5 years. I 110% agree with you that the last 5 years have been tough globally - but a 5% trend does not equal the end of the middle class.

I pick on the 1950/1960s because many folks see it as the high point of US power/income (post war & baby boom) so it is a great "level" set by comparing today with the high water mark and you see that the high water mark was not as good. Another high mark would be around 1994 or so.

Quote:

All this "adapt" crap is just nonsense. Society and the individual have never been conditioned or prepared for the amount of "adaption" being asked of us now. Some people lack the ability to analyse their situation properly and even more than that aren't able to adapt very easily.


I am not sure that I understand this or how it is relavent - mea culpa

Quote:

Bramadan: The economy acts as a filter on those "needs of other humans". It currently contains several distorted, unsustainable sets of incentives that are leading to massive misallocation of capital and resources. I think there's a lot of scope for "analyzing and adapting" our economic systems to be less destructive and more effective before we blithely go and as the whole of humanity to "suck it up" in order to pursue shareholder value.



ahhhhhh, I think (think being the operative word) I see where you are going - that the global economy has become distorted in ways that you dont like. So don't like = bad.


Ken - not forgetting you either. I understand what you are saying - that the dissapearance of the middle class is bad and I agree with you - but is it actually?

Home ownership in the US has increased over the last 60 years. 62.1% in 1960 (relatively stable over the next 20 years) with a stong uptik starting in 1995 (64.7) to a high of 69.0% in 2004 (latest numbers are 67.4%) (from wikipedia homeownership - sorry shut it down before copying the URL)

54% of Americans held some kind of equity investiment in 2011 - comparable to 1999 (but down slightly from 65% in 2007). http://www.gallup.com/poll/147206/stock-market-investments-l... so I am not seeing a rapid tear down of investment opportunities there for the Americans

So how exactly is the middle class dissapearing? Again, I wont deny that they have had a tough go of it in the last couple of years - but the numbers above don't show that they are in any danger of dissapearing (or even dramatically lowering in number).

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My dad was (union skilled trades) blue collar and I considered us middle class. Maybe it was because we lived in the country and most of our neighbors were farmers.

Until this thread it never occurred to me that you had to be white collar to be middle class. It's quite possible that my perception is skewed because in the midwest union automotive workers are historically well (over?) paid for the type of jobs they have.


 
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qzhdad wrote:
My dad was (union skilled trades) blue collar and I considered us middle class. Maybe it was because we lived in the country and most of our neighbors were farmers.

Until this thread it never occurred to me that you had to be white collar to be middle class. It's quite possible that my perception is skewed because in the midwest union automotive workers are historically well (over?) paid for the type of jobs they have.


Sorry, good point. I didn't mean to imply that only white collar workers would consider themselves middle class. My point was that middle class in most countries is broader than it is understood to be in the UK. In other countries it can certainly include well-paid blue-collar workers.
 
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qzhdad wrote:
My dad was (union skilled trades) blue collar and I considered us middle class. Maybe it was because we lived in the country and most of our neighbors were farmers.

Until this thread it never occurred to me that you had to be white collar to be middle class. It's quite possible that my perception is skewed because in the midwest union automotive workers are historically well (over?) paid for the type of jobs they have.




I think it's someone else's misperception, not yours. In the US anyway I'd say a lot of skilled blue collar workers are in the middle class. I'm guessing it's more about some white collar folks who want to identify as "middle" rather than "upper" class trying to skew it their way. Much like the tendency to assume that one's political opinion is right in the middle of the bell curve, I think most people in the US want to identify themselves as middle class. It's especially reinforced because most of us tend to live, work, and socialize with people around the same socio-economic level as we are and therefore incorrectly extrapolate that since "everyone" is about like us, we must be the average.
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Fwing wrote:
That's all lovely but the amount of my salary that I spend on white good and air fares is pretty fucking negligible. It doesn't matter what percentage of average income these things costs when people on average incomes can't afford them.

I spend most of my money on energy and food. In the UK those have risen about 20% in the last 3 years and they're still rising. At the same time my wages have basically gone "pay cut/freeze/raise 3% under inflation".

That's before we even start discussing the relative durability of white goods in the 80s and now.

Either way, and this goes to Mondainai as well, you can crow about how "we've never had it so good". Balls. Most of us had it better 5 years ago. The general trajectory of the "middle class" is downwards and the only argument is whether that downward trend will accelerate or decelerate.

All this "adapt" crap is just nonsense. Society and the individual have never been conditioned or prepared for the amount of "adaption" being asked of us now. Some people lack the ability to analyse their situation properly and even more than that aren't able to adapt very easily.

And yet I somehow can't make myself feel pity for you, or feel any strong urgency to adapt policies that help the likes of you (or me for that matter; I'm quite the definition of endangered middle class, apartment mortgaged at 100%, and huge study debts on top of that)

Your sense of downfall is obviously real, but comes across as quite short-sighted. My grandma quit school and started as a farm girl when she was 13. Since then we've progressed rapidly every decade. And now it's been stagnant for a while, or maybe even a 1-digit % decrease as you say, and now you're suddenly a widow in Darfur, sleepless at night because you might not afford a new TV.

This possible decline we're having is a bump on the road. And more so, the hill we've just been on was artificially inflated. Our colonies (well, your colonies, but anyway) were deliberately economically retarded; hindered from achieving the same development that we got. When our parents could afford a Volvo and trips to the Canary Islands from working the assembly line, they weren't the only ones who were able and willing to work in that factory; billions wanted that job, but weren't allowed to compete. You and I have been looked after, as citizens of the world's rich bullies; you and I are both children of the fat cat you so love to hate. You are, at least on a logarithmic scale, nearly as unfairly privileged as your Queen herself. People have been kept in poverty by armies and barbed wire so that you should be able to soak yourself in bacon fat every morning. Your self-pity is as amusing as that of a French aristocrat when the revolution comes.

As we speak, hundreds of millions of people like my grandma are getting other choices than picking out rat turds from the abusive farmer's grain sack; those choices are still not nice by our rich-country-2012 standards, but they are better, and a perfect start. On the other side of the planet, massive middle-classes are arising, which more than outweighs our relative "decline" here.

But colonization and trade-and-migration regimes aren't the worst bags of air underpinning our recent "golden age"; excessive resource consumption is. As in using up stuff that only exists in limited quantities, and as in destroying human habitats through environmental destruction. Your energy cost example is ironically a case in point. If you paid what that energy really cost us, you would be looking at a 200% increase rather than a 20% increase. It's just that someone else paid for you heating your poorly insulated, excessively large house (ok, I'm just guessing here). People are flooded, suffering drought, losing their fresh water supply because you can't watch TV and hangout with friends in the same room that you sleep in at night.

Now, I'm not defending the rich, and/or the shareholders here. Of course we should tax the hell out of them, as much as we can without hurting the economy. Most of them don't "deserve" a percentage of what they have; just like you and your lavish 3-roomer or what you have, they were just the right person at the right place at the right time.

No, I'm defending the poor. I hope I'm assuming too much here, but my experience is that these "poor rich country middle class" sentiments tend to gravitate towards policy preferences such as 1) "environmentalism, yay, baby seals are cute, but flying to the Mediterranean is a nonnegotiable human right" and 2) "protect our jobs"; let Indians work for Indians, imprison those who try to buy in Bihar and sell in Borlänge, unless they pay so much in customs that it isn't worth it; if that means 13-year-old women only can choose between weeding out rat turds then so be it, I need my bacon breakfast and extra bedroom" 3) anti-immigration - in consequence the same as 2)

That's class warfare, and I'm on the side of the rural Burmese here. (Which happens to sometimes coincide with the interests of a lot of shareholders, which we should tax heavily.) And I hope you are too, so that's why I get worried when you and your pinnacle-of-mankind hot-water-on-tap- and coffee-machine-lifestyle start pitying yourself.

All people have equal right to apply for all jobs, and no one has the right to destroy someone else's habitat without duly compensation. If these two principles mean you can't vacation further than Calais this summer, then yes, evolve or suck it up.
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