The American Middle Class-Where is IT Going?

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  1. gmwilliams profile image85
    gmwilliamsposted 10 months ago
    Is the American middle class doomed?  Or is the American middle class metamorphosizing into something else? Is the American middle class as we know it be extinct with those who are highly educated or highly specialized advancing into the upper class & those middle class with lower skilled levels falling into the lower classes? In essence, can the middle class be SAVED?

    1. Credence2 profile image80
      Credence2posted 10 months agoin reply to this

      Wages and compensation has not kept pace with the cost of living, so what was once a middle class income has become somewhat less. Like you once said, you have to be earning 100K to be comfortable middle class in much of the country. How many middle class jobs pay at that level? Two breadwinners are now required when at one time one was enough.

      1. wilderness profile image97
        wildernessposted 10 months agoin reply to this

        It has been a long time since one income was commonly sufficient to live a comfortable middle class lifestyle.

        However, by definition the middle class is formed around the median income, both some above and some below; for the American family that's only $70,000.

        Biggest problem is that people's desires outstrip their earnings, but hasn't that been the case for the majority of people since caveman days?

        1. Credence2 profile image80
          Credence2posted 10 months agoin reply to this

          Yes, I have heard that the medium salary is about where you have stated. There was a time not so long ago when that was a lot of money.

          People's desires have always outstripped their earnings, but regardless there existed a middle class where earnings and desires intersected and Could be met by larger portion of the population than today, as that designation is becoming less real for more people.

          People wanted just as many glittery things 50 years ago. So how does that explain why the middle class is diminishing today?

          1. Kathryn L Hill profile image78
            Kathryn L Hillposted 10 months agoin reply to this

            Maybe because the middle class, over time, became the upper class.  For instance, where I live, my home town was traditionally lower middle class. Now, it is considered upper class because the home prices rose as the value of the area rose. The schools reached blue ribbon status and homeowners/apartment renters enjoy the beauty of the parks and nearby mountains.

            These days,(recent past,) everybody has everything and the means to obtain whatever they want, over-all. The poorest of us, is (was) actually pretty well off.

            And now things are leveling out. What is happening, is that people are being taxed, regulated and required to be insured for every little thing. How can the middle class stay in good shape when jobs are hard to keep and create. When entrepreneurship is squelched by over-regulation and taxes steal all the profits?


            1. Credence2 profile image80
              Credence2posted 10 months agoin reply to this

              There is truth in the fact that many previously middle class stutus individuals and families have transitioned to upper classes, but a larger percentage have been repositioned into the lower classes.

              In Denver, the area known as "Five Points", just north of downtown once known as a run down lower class domicile 50 years ago, has experienced a renaissance. Those old Victorian era homes are now priceless, besides, the nearness to downtown and the economic centers of the city has changed its status. So what we have is gentrification. The original residents were forced out by means of which I am still investigating. Was it the increase in property taxes? What is it that allows wealth to displace one group with its own?
              "These days,(recent past,) everybody has everything and the means to obtain whatever they want, over-all. The poorest of us, is (was) actually pretty well off."

              I don't know how true that really is....

              Taxes pay for the services that we all use, regulations are required to protect the public from abuse from business and the private sector. Insurance is necessary in a litigious society as protection. My idea of over regulation verses yours may prove to be different. I would say that we need to remove redundant bureaucracy in regards to regulations that stifle creatively unnecessarily, the regulations are still needed. We just differ as to how much and to what extent.

          2. wilderness profile image97
            wildernessposted 10 months agoin reply to this

            You missed the point.  The middle class is defined as the median salary +- X, X being a number you like.  Probably around 20-25% or so (making half the nation middle class.  50 years ago or today, X remains the same.

            By any rules of arithmetic I know of, then, the middle class is not diminishing; it has remained the same, by definition.  We only say it is diminishing because like all others the middle class wants more than it has and whines that it must not be middle class if it can't have what the upper class does.

            1. Credence2 profile image80
              Credence2posted 10 months agoin reply to this

              You are on target after a little research, I found that the median middle class income in 1971 (10290) is comparable to that of today (75000).

              The only thing that I disagree with is that "class envy" is something that is a recent phenomenon of today. That has always been with us.

              1. wilderness profile image97
                wildernessposted 10 months agoin reply to this

                Yes, class envy has always been there.  But it seems worse today, to me; the new generation wants what they have been used to and virtually refuses to start at the bottom the way their parents did. 

                Maybe it's just greed, maybe it's because they have never been asked to work for what they get, maybe it's because they have been given so much.  Whatever the reason the dissatisfaction with their lot in life seems beyond what we've seen in the past.

      2. Nathanville profile image94
        Nathanvilleposted 10 months agoin reply to this

        I know that we’ve discussed this before, but wow, “you have to be earning $100,000 per year to be comfortable middle class in much of the country (USA)”.

        I’m middle class, my family net income (our pensions and my wife’s disability allowance ‘for her bad back’) is half that e.g. around $50,000, yet we are very comfortable e.g. enough income to pay all our bills and to be able to afford to buy luxury items, and replace white goods and other household goods when they need replacing, and are able to afford our three holidays (vacations) per year, plus day trips during the summer months.

        So I wonder - why do Americans need so much more income than British people to live comfortably?

        I think part of the answer is that:-

        •    Universal Healthcare is free to all at the point of use e.g. no medical insurance payments, or health costs, to worry about, and

        •    A more generous social and welfare system in the UK than in the USA, which benefits all, but with those most in need getting most of the help.

        Admittedly, in our case we’ve paid off our mortgage, and being retired we don’t have the expense of travelling to work, and I grow all our vegetables (except potatoes), and I’m rather apt at recycling and upcycling, and I do all our own DIY instead of employing workmen to do maintenance, repairs and home improvements, and we now have solar panels and wall battery to keep our energy costs down.  But even so, most families earning $100,000 in Britain would normally have a high standard of living, and they would consider themselves wealthy.

        In response to another discussion (with wilderness); statistically, a median average family with two children in the UK, with both couples in full time employment, would have a gross income of $82,676; which after tax on income, and with getting child benefit, would have a net joint income of $68,554 – which during normal times would make them quite wealthy.

        In just checking our financial budget, in my household our annual living costs, which includes, property tax, gas, electricity, petrol, TV licence, water rates, TV Cable subscription, mobile phone costs, house and contents insurance, car maintenance, new cloths etc. all come to a grand total of around $17,000 per year; which leaves me and my wife with more than $30,000 a year to spend on luxury items, holidays and for savings.  So we are very comfortable, even during this period of hyperinflation.

        However, at the moment, due to the current ‘cost of living crisis’ with inflation over 10%, and the energy crisis with energy bills more than double this winter, a lot of people in the UK are struggling to pay their bills.

        The latest government statistics for September 2022 is that 45% of British families are finding it ‘either very difficult or somewhat difficult’ to pay the energy bills, and 30% of British families are finding it ‘either very difficult or somewhat difficult’ to pay their rent or mortgage.

        But it is a short term crisis, which is set to last just a few years, then life will begin to return to normal again; for example:-

        •    Within the next two years six more offshore windfarms are due to come on line, which will generate enough electricity to meet 10% of demand in the UK (on top of the Renewable Energy already being generated; and later this year that includes a new windfarm that when it goes live will be the largest offshore windfarm in the world (generating 5% of the total electricity used in the UK).  So the dramatic increase of cheap green electricity over the next few years will help to bring the cost of electricity down.

        •    And of course, pay rises for a lot of industry, where pay disputes are being settled, will help,

        •    As will the rise in Pensions and Benefits in April to keep up with inflation.

        And in the meantime, there are currently around 30 different government schemes this winter to help people with the cost of living crisis, and energy crisis, some of which are not means tested e.g. everyone gets it, and others that are means tested so that those in most need gets the most help.

        Yeah, it’s going to be a tough few years for all (as it was during the financial crisis of 2008/2009), but in a few years things will begin to look a lot rosier.

        1. DrMark1961 profile image95
          DrMark1961posted 10 months agoin reply to this

          With about 20% of that income, you can live a comfortable middle class lifestyle in Brazil, so comparing your situation to that in the US does not work. Socialism has already made the US government the largest employer in the world, and more taxes is not going to make them more comfortable or better able to afford things.

          1. Nathanville profile image94
            Nathanvilleposted 10 months agoin reply to this

            I think you are supporting the concept that it's expensive to live in America, by pointing out that in Brazil you can live a comfortable lifestyle on just 20% of the income.

            Yeah, I know that Americans are adverse to higher taxes in order to have a more comprehensive social and welfare system; that's ideology isn't going to change, no more than Europeans want the reverse.

            Different cultural values and attitudes across the pond.

        2. Readmikenow profile image94
          Readmikenowposted 10 months agoin reply to this

          Fed-Up Rod Stewart Offers to Pay for People's Hospital Scans
          Amid NHS controversy in the UK

          The UK's National Health Service (NHS) is in crisis, and it's recently been reported that millions of people are waiting for NHS treatment in England—and the wait can be as much as a year long. There are complaints of a so-called "two-tier health system," in which those who can afford to pay for private care ($375 to $500 or so for an MRI, for example) can jump the line. Apparently fed up with the controversy, iconic British singer Rod Stewart called in to a Sky News segment on the issue and offered to pay for people's scans himself, the Guardian reports. He said in his 78 years he's never seen the country "so bad," the BBC reports.

          "There are people dying because they cannot get scans," said Stewart, whose call was not scheduled or planned—he was working on his model railroad while watching the show. Meanwhile, he continued, he could simply pay for a scan at private clinic, like one he recently visited that was empty. "I would like to pay for 10 or 20 scans, or however much it takes. I don’t know how we’re (going to) work this out and, hopefully, some other people will follow, because it seems ridiculous that this particular scanning clinic was empty," he said. "If other people follow me, I’d love it." He notes he's been a longtime supporter of the Conservative party, but thinks it's time to give the Labour party a chance to turn things around.

 … gn=rss_top

          1. Readmikenow profile image94
            Readmikenowposted 10 months agoin reply to this

            This is just one of hundreds of articles from many different sources that claim the NHS is in serious trouble.

            "NHS ‘in danger of complete collapse’, says medical association
            Warning issued as poll reveals 44% of hospital consultants in England plan to leave in the next year

            The UK's National Health Service is “in danger of complete collapse”, with a poll revealing more than two in five of the most senior hospital medics are planning to leave in the next year, leading doctors have warned.

            The NHS is “at breaking point” and there must be immediate government action, the British Medical Association said.

            The BMA poll found that 44 per cent of hospital consultants in England plan to leave the NHS, or take a break from it, over the next year.

            Among consultant surgeons, the figure was 50 per cent.

            The BMA survey of almost 8,000 consultants suggested pay and pension tax arrangements were among the reasons they planned to leave.

            Meanwhile, nine in 10 consultants said this year’s pay rise of 4.5 per cent, was “inadequate” or “completely unacceptable”.

            The BMA said “punitive” rules on pension tax have led to a tripling of doctors taking early retirement in the past 13 years, with the average retirement age now 59.

            “The NHS is already at breaking point and cannot afford to lose any of its staff, never mind facing the prospect of losing nearly half of its most senior doctors," said Dr Vishal Sharma, chairman of the BMA consultants' committee.

            “Not only will this have a very significant adverse impact on patient care, this loss of doctors will simply result in increased pressure on those staff who remain in the workforce, further increasing the risk of burnout.

            “After years of demoralising real-terms pay cuts and chronic staffing shortages, the NHS and its staff are on their knees.

   … sociation/

          2. Nathanville profile image94
            Nathanvilleposted 10 months agoin reply to this

            Yep, and you ‘hit the nail on the head’ in your last sentence, to quote what Sir Rod Stewart said “he’s been a long-time supporter of the Conservative Party, but thinks it’s time to give the Labour Party (Socialists) a chance to turn things around – Need I say more?

            But the crux of the matter is that the NHS is currently in a middle of a long protracted ‘industrial action’ against the Conservative Government e.g. for the first time in its history, nurses and ambulance drivers going on strike.

            Yeah, the Conservative Government have mismanaged the NHS, causing the current crisis and industrial action (strikes).  And time is running out for the Conservative Government to fix the problem, because the next General Election is looming ever closer; and if the Conservative Government doesn’t fix the problems they’ve created then they will most certainly loose power to Labour (Socialists) within the next couple of years.

            According to the latest official Government data 66% of the British population support the nurses and ambulance drivers taking strike action.

            And in spite of the headline news of there currently being long waiting lists (for some treatments); I can assure you from personal experiences that life threatening emergency treatment is dealt with without delay, and the bulk of day to day routine care is carrying on as normal e.g. the industrial action didn’t affect my routine hospital appointment earlier this month, nor any of my wife’s routine check-ups with her doctor this month; and in recent months (including this month) my wife’s brother (who is elderly) has had a several serious falls and have had to be rushed to hospital in an ambulance – where he then spends a few days or a week recovering before he’s fit enough to return home - And none of NHS Industrial Action has adversely affected the level of care and treatment my wife’s brother is getting.  And once home he then gets NHS homecare e.g. where someone nips in a couple of times a day to ensure he’s OK and eating properly etc., and to help him shower etc.

            So the headlines only gives’ you the worst news; which for an outsider distorts the picture.

            Nurses on strike NHS:

            Ambulance Drivers on strike in the NHS:

            Back drop to the dispute:

            •    Inflation in the UK last year was 10.1%

            •    The UK (Conservative) Government is offering the NHS a pay rise of just 4.75% in England and Wales.

            •    The Scottish (Socialist) Government is offering the NHS in Scotland an 11.24% pay rise.

            So it looks likely that the NHS Industrial Action in Scotland will soon cease, while the NHS Industrial Action in England and Wales will drag on, potentially for many more months.

        3. Credence2 profile image80
          Credence2posted 10 months agoin reply to this

          Hi Arthur

          That is an interesting question and I wanted to compare apples with apples, so I compared London and New York City, both world class metropolises.

 … York%2C+NY

          It seems like groceries and food subsistence in more expensive in New York. The price of rents and housing is considerably higher in New York. Also, it looks like education, child care and such, now a substantial expense for most families, is more expensive in New York City.

          We have experience an increase in our Federal pension benefits for the same reason you have.

          But your utilities and cost of energy are generally higher. Because of the inordinate influence of money, we will shun the best course in the acquisition of energy both in terms of environment and cost in consideration of those industries with the influence to operate within the powers that be to shape the outcome to their advantage to maintain profitability.

          In your society, money is not king, here, unfortunately, it is.

          You are right that the need to provide for health insurance out of pocket here raises the costs of living here.

          A socialist based democracy is anathema in the American tradition. In my opinion the power of wealth and money have an inordinate influence in American life. Where for you folks the almighty British Pound does not influence certain humanity and decency behavior in total as it can here. You don't have homeless people living on the streets in London, at least not that I have heard.

          But there is one disadvantage to owning a home in Britain, I understand that your mortgage rates can change annually with the prevailing interest rate. Here, you can lock in a mortgage and that cannot go up, but you can always refinance and take advantage of a rate lower that what you negotiated initially.

          1. Nathanville profile image94
            Nathanvilleposted 10 months agoin reply to this

            Excellent idea to compare London with New York City, as a like for like comparison; and a very informative link – thanks.

            Looking at your link, I also noted that transport (public and private) is more expensive in London than New York; which is interesting in that public transport in London is far cheaper than public transport anywhere else in the UK because unlike the rest of the UK London Public Transport is ‘State owned and State run’ by the London local government.

            The other factor to consider, putting it into perspective, is that the ‘cost of living’ in London is 20% higher than anywhere else in the UK, which is why wages in London are also 20% higher than the rest of the UK.

            In respect to where you say: “Also, it looks like education, child care and such, now a substantial expense for most families, is more expensive in New York City.”:-

            •    In the UK if your household income is less than $24,241 per year then the government will pay up to 85% of your childcare costs for one child; and for two or more children if your household income is less than $34,667 per year the government will pay up to 85% of your childcare costs.

            •    And also, in the UK education is free for all under the age of 18.

            And even as an Adult, further education is either free or cheap in colleges, or if you decide to do a degree at university then although the university fee is $11,470 per year in the UK except for Scotland, the UK system makes it affordable for all.

            For example, basic studies at college, like English and maths is free for adults; other subjects you do have to pay for, but not much e.g. In the City of Bristol College I could do a ‘Basic Car Maintenance’ course for just $186, which makes college education affordable, even for poor families.

            Unlike the USA, for adult education, there is a big distinction between college and university in the UK e.g. if you want a degree you go to university; any other qualification you go to college.

            As regards university fees, you have to pay for university in the UK except for Scotland where in Scotland University is free to all UK & EU citizens except the English e.g. the Scottish (Socialist) Government make English students pay the full English $11,470 university fee for studying in a Scottish university!

            However, like the USA, you pay for your university fee by taking out a student loan; but you only start paying back the student loan if/when you earn more than $33,844 per year; and even then you only pay just 9% of anything you earn over the $33,844 threshold.  So for example if after getting your degree you earn the UK mean average wage of $41,338 per year, then your student loan repayment would be just $674 per year. 

            However, if you never earn the threshold of $33,844 then you’ll never pay a penny back; and any outstanding student loan left owing when you reach retirement age is automatically written off anyway.

            Yeah, our utilities and cost of energy are high in the UK at the moment because of the chronic world shortage of natural gas, due to the war in Ukraine; but those costs will fall back to more acceptable levels in a few years, for reasons, as explained above.

            Yeah, we don’t have huge numbers of homeless people living on the streets in Britain; we do have some, but small in comparison to the USA; primarily because in the UK local governments have a legal obligation to provide homes for the homeless – so in the UK if you do become homeless and you present yourself to your local government then you are given a high priority to be housed; initially in temporary accommodation (which statistically still counts as homeless), and as soon as practical you will be given your own home e.g. a council house, and if you can’t afford the rent then the local government will pay your rent for you.  This helps people to get back onto their feet, find a job and start paying taxes and contributing to society again.

            A council house is a house that is built and owned by the local government, to help provide social housing for those in need.

            UK Council House Tour From Homeless To A Home - Part1 (e.g. the day this homeless family moved from temporary accommodation to the Local Government (State Owned) Council House:

            The house we bought was an ex-council house, good price, good size property, good location and large back garden; so when we were searching to by a new home it was just ideal for us.

            As regards mortgage rates:  Yeah, in the UK you can have a variable mortgage rate if you want, which changes every time interest rates change; that was the type of mortgage we opted for because at the time when we bought our house interests rates were very high, so the only direction they could go was down.

            But in the UK you do also have the option of fixed rate mortgages from 1 year to 10 years; although the most popular fix rate mortgages are 2 years and 5 years.  But if you take out a 5 year fixed mortgage rate and the following year interest rates fall substantially you are stuck with paying the higher rate until the end of the 5 years.  So people have to make their own judgment when deciding whether to get a fixed rate mortgage, and if so, for how long.

            1. Credence2 profile image80
              Credence2posted 10 months agoin reply to this

              Thanks, for the education, Arthur, it was smart for you toget your house paid early. We have been moving a bit and have finally decided to stay put. We still have a mortgage on the house that the interest rate will stay fixed at the agreed upon rate for its 30 year duration. We probably won't live long enough to get to the other end of it, but the nice thing is that because mortgage payment was fixed, the cost of the house relative to our earnings continues to decline over time.

              Our reliance on Capitalism as the predominant determinant in the life courses of people the United States make it fundamentally different from the United Kingdom and much of Europe, for that matter. I have been following some of the labor and pension issue in France as of late.

              Conservatives would disagree, because I am not as gung ho about the system as they would naturally be.

              1. Nathanville profile image94
                Nathanvilleposted 10 months agoin reply to this

                Thanks for the feedback.  This is our second house:

                Our first house we bought (a year before we got married), was on a 30 year variable mortgage for just $10,500, it was a reprocessed 2 bedroom terrace house; the previous owner only paid just $3,700 six years earlier.

                Ten years later we wanted to move up the property ladder, specifically looking for a three bedroom semi-detached; when we spotted an ex-council house that looked ideal. So we sold our house for $53,200 and bought our existing home for $59,400 on a 25 year variable mortgage, which was fully paid up in 2015, just a few years after I took early retirement at age 55.

                Currently properties in our street are selling at between $150,000 & $220,000

                Having a variable mortgage in the early years, when interests rates were high, and wages were much lower, it was difficult as the mortgage payments was a large chunk of our income; but over time, as my wages increased to keep up with inflation, and the mortgage payments didn’t, the Burdon of a mortgage became less and less; and by the time I made my final payment it was only a fraction of my income.

              2. Nathanville profile image94
                Nathanvilleposted 10 months agoin reply to this

                One related thought I had this afternoon, which might or might not put a smile on your face?

                When we bought our first house, in those days, in the UK, you didn’t get your mortgage from a bank; you got it from a ‘Building Society’.

                Building Societies were akin to co-operatives e.g. they belonged to their customers – a touch of socialism, which rankled Margaret Thatcher who’s only believed in ‘capitalism’.  So in the 1980’s as Prime Minster, Margaret Thatcher passed Legislation that made it a legal requirement for all ‘Building Societies’ to become banks e.g. to be owned by shareholders rather than the customers.

                Of course, under the law, to float the Building Societies on the Stock Market, as part of transforming them into banks, meant that all existing customers were entitled to free shares, so that their share of the company was disenfranchised; and that just didn’t mean people who had savings accounts with Building Societies – under the law people who borrowed money from the Building Societies (mortgages) were also a customer, and technically a co-owner.

                The exchange rate that was set, when the Building Societies were floated on the Stock Market, was that every Building Society member would be given 1 share (worth £1) for every £100 that they had saved in the Building Society (savings accounts), or owed the Building Society (mortgage).

                So as I still owed £10,000 ($12,380) on my mortgage I was given 100 free shares; which are now worth about $500 – but rather than selling them, I’ve kept them so that I can get the dividends, which currently is about $20 a year – not much but it effectively covers the cost of a meal out for my wife and I in a restaurant.

                1. Credence2 profile image80
                  Credence2posted 10 months agoin reply to this

                  Well sometimes, Arthur, small things can mean so much, it is the principle of the thing.

                  We have credit unions here that are theoretically owned by members/customers as I understand. They attracted me with no fees banking, with the commercial bank you would be overwhelmed with fees and surcharges that in time will empty your account.

                  The Iron Lady was attracted to capitalism as just another way to circumscribe wealth and the attainment of same to a handful are generally well heeled already. It is no wonder that Reagan took her as his bride...

                  1. Nathanville profile image94
                    Nathanvilleposted 10 months agoin reply to this

                    Yep, not being money orientated, I’d never bother buying my own shares, but as you say “small things can mean so much” e.g.  It’s a nice thought that the small dividend payment I get from the shares pays for a romantic meal for me and my wife on her birthday.

                    And yeah, the Iron Lady and Reagan were defiantly ‘two peas in a pod’, ‘cut from the same cloth’.

                    It sounds as if your 'credit unions' are similar to our co-operatives.

                    We still do have at least one co-operative left in the UK, called the Co-op (which has its roots in 1844); it’s more famous for its supermarket outlets, but it does have its finger in many pies, including banking, insurance and funeral service e.g. the Co-op is the 2nd cheapest funeral service you can get in the UK.

                    And interestingly we also obviously do have ‘Credit Unions’ in Britain, as we have one in Bristol, but credit unions are not as well-known as the Co-op in Britain.

                    The credit union in Bristol financially backed the creation of the ‘Bristol Pound’ in 2012 e.g. a local currency that could only be used in Bristol. 

                    The Bristol pound ceased operating in 2020 because of the pandemic e.g. the fear of passing on covid through the use of paper money (although you could also pay electronically if you wanted to).  However, the Bristol Credit union is currently working with the organisers to create a 100% electronic version of the Bristol pound, which will be called ‘Bristol Pay’.

                    Why use the Bristol Pound?

                    I don’t know about the USA, but because of the pandemic, and the fear of passing on covid via paper money; many organisations have now ceased using paper money e.g. they’ll only accept ‘contactless payment’.

                    Below is a photo of the rather colourful and attractive looking Bristol Pounds


  2. MizBejabbers profile image88
    MizBejabbersposted 10 months ago

    I see some interesting statements posted here, and I agree with most of them. After living through the 1960s and 70s heyday, I can see that the problems began around the recession of the 1980s. Some people blame it on politics, but I believe it goes deeper. Remember the old saying, "whatever goes up must come down." Part of the problem is that the world is now running out of resources, and with scarcity comes higher prices. We can want more than we have, but when one goes to the store and sees empty shelves, that becomes an equalizer. When a variety of good nutritious food can't be obtained at any price, or when housing prices soar out of range of even the upper middle class, the upper crust may be falling equal to the lower castes.


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