Saturday, October 21, 2006
Stats Mavens Duke It Out Over The Fate Of The Middle Class
There's been an interesting debate this week on the web pages of The American Prospect. One side pooh-poohs the notion of middle class decline and rising debt, explaining that non-employed seniors are suppressing the average wage picture and that most of the folks in their "working prime" are really pulling in the dough. Their message is, to paraphrase Robert Browning, "The CEO's in His Heaven, and all's right with the world." The other side, while agreeing that the overall circumstances of the middle class have improved in 1973, still emphasize that these improvements are not keeping pace with those for the rich, the improvement in whose circumstances (as if they needed any) has been phenomenal. They also stress that the decline in the rate of improvement, relative to the rich, is cause for alarm - and may prefigure a disturbing trend.
We may be in a cusp situation, in which the middle class is, in fact, experiencing its last hurrah, and that only real decline - not just a slowing of progress - lies in the future. The apologists of the status quo are accused of juggling figures, of focusing too exclusively on middle class prosperity while ignoring the young, the poor, the unemployed and the elderly, and of deliberately drawing statistics from notoriously unreliable sources. They also do not sufficiently acknowledge that debt really is increasing, real wages actually have been decreasing - not since 1973 perhaps, but certainly in the last five years - that health care and pensions are becoming less available rather than more, and that more middle class workers than ever have the threat of layoffs hanging over them like a freakin' sword of Damocles. This is an excellent debate full of statistics and other quotable quantitative tidbits too numerous to include in this blog entry.
Join the fray, or at least observe it, and visit the link below.
"Debating The Middle" from The American Prospect