The End of the Middle Class

by Dr. Ben on October 17, 2011

The middle class has shrunk so much in the last twenty-five years that it has almost disappeared.  It’s now the rich or the poor!  And you need to choose sides. (I recommend rich.)

When I lived in Los Angeles I remember a UCLA study that revealed a shocking (50%) decline in the middle-class with a bulge in those at the top and a huge increase of those near the bottom.  Part of this was attributed to immigration, and of course the restructuring of the economy.  The researchers described the traditional distribution being shaped like a football with a few individuals and families at the top a few at the bottom, and many in the middle.  However, the new model looked more like a pear.

PBS has been running a series of reports by economist Paul Solman on economic inequality.  Recently he reported on the growing gap between the rich and the poor and reported that 84% of the nation’s housing and financial wealth is owned by the top 20%.  The bottom 40% hold just 0.3% !  Yes, you read that correctly.  Forty percent of the U.S. citizenry has almost nothing!  No assets, no wealth.

Almost half of the U.S. population receives some form of government assistance (including Social Security, Medicare, and Food Stamps).  Now we could argue philosophically or politically about social programs, but without that safety net many of those on the lower end of the economic scale would be completely destitute (especially older people and those with young children).

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