Over the course of close to a half century, the middle class has gone from the default position of most Americans to—officially, now—a minority status. The latest Pew Research Center figures, released yesterday, show that at long last the middle class is not the American majority any longer. Now, the middle class constitutes a statistical minority compared to the aggregate of the rich and poor. “ In early 2015, 120.8 million adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined, a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point.”
Furthermore, the share of America’s income going to the middle class has fallen from 62% in 1970 to 43% now. Today, the majority of our national income goes to the upper class, which reaps a 49% share. (Lest you think that is normal, the share of income going to the upper class in 1970 was just 29%). The median wealth of middle class households has fallen by more than one-fourth since the beginning of this century.
In other words, the rich are getting richer. The middle class is shrinking. And the poor are still poor.
What can be done? There are many simple things to be done that can reverse this trend. We can raise tax rates on the rich and use the proceeds to fund a robust social safety net for the middle and lower income brackets. We can do away with regressive taxes that target the less well-off proportionally more than the rich. We can strengthen organized labor. We can direct a greater portion of America’s budget towards public housing, public education, and public health. And, most simply, we can get angry enough to scare the rich into realizing that these things will be good for their long-term self-preservation.
America, a Christian nation, believes that The Middle Class may rise again. Whether this turns out to be a dumb myth remains to be seen.