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oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Misplaced Pride: Most of the "Middle Class" Is Actually Working Class
"If we look at these charts, it looks like only the top 10%, or perhaps the top 20% at best, might qualify as "middle class" by the metrics described below.

The conventional definition of working class is based on income and education:the working class household earns between $30,000 and $69,000 annually, and the highest education credential in the household is a two-year community college degree or trade certification.

The definition of the middle class is also based on on income and education, but adds financial security as a metric: the middle class household earns $80,000 or more, holds 4-year college diplomas or graduate degrees, owns a home, has a 401K retirement account and so on.

(My own definition is much more rigorous, as I reckon "middle class" today should have the same basic assets as the "middle class" held 40 years ago: What Does It Take To Be Middle Class? (December 5, 2013.)

But in some key ways, income and education are misleading metrics: the key attributes that actually define the working class are:

1. Stagnant incomes: incomes that over time barely keep up with real-world inflation or even lose purchasing power.

2. Income insecurity: wages, benefits and pensions are not as guaranteed as advertised.

3. Not enough ownership of financial capital to be meaningful. Financial capital excludes household items, vehicles, etc. Financial capital includes stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, ownership of a profitable business, equity in real estate, precious metals, bitcoin, etc.

By meaningful I mean enough to:

-- augment Social Security benefits in a way that greatly improves the household's lifestyle and retirement options

-- equity that is significant enough to fund college educations so one's children do not have to become debt-serfs to attend college

-- enough capital to fund (or help with) a down payment for a house, i.e. inheritable wealth that transforms the children's lives while the parents are still alive

-- income from capital, i.e. income isn't dependent on a government agency or government transfer.

How many U.S. households qualify to be middle class if that means:

-- the household income has outpaced real-world inflation over the past 20 years

-- the household's financial capital/assets have grown to become meaningful (as defined above) in the past 20 years

-- the household doesn't depend on government transfers for much of its income / spending

-- the household income and wealth are not dependent on financial bubbles, corporate guarantees, local government pensions on the verge of insolvency, etc.

While tens of millions of households qualify as "middle class" based on college diplomas and income, far fewer qualify when wealth and financial security are the key metrics. Plenty of households earn well in excess of $100,000 annually, but their financial status is as precarious and threadbare as any working class household.

They don't own enough assets or capital to move the needle, and what they do own is generally dependent on financial bubbles or speculative gambles.

Feeling like we belong to the "middle class" because we have a college diploma and make a good income offers up a false sense of pride and progress.If we're realistic about the financial wealth and security of "middle class" households, most qualify as working class: stagnant incomes, precarious financial circumstances, very little meaningful wealth and even less meaningful wealth that isn't dependent on the bubble du jour or promises that might not be kept.

If we look at these charts, it looks like only the top 10%, or perhaps the top 20% at best, might qualify as "middle class" by the metrics described above.

What sort of society do we have if the bottom 20% of households are poor, the next 60% are working class/precariat and only the top 20% (at best) have any of the core attributes of "middle class" financial security and wealth?

[charts]

If we take off our rose-colored glasses, we have a much more stratified economy and society than we might like to believe: there's the top 1%, the next 4% "upper middle class," the next 10% "middle class," the next 65% working class, and the bottom 20% poor, those largely dependent on government transfers.

The "middle" has eroded away, leaving the top 15% who are doing very well in the status quo and the bottom 85% who are struggling to maintain a meaningful sense of prosperity and progress.

Personally, I'm proud to be working class in terms of my skillsets and values. Labels mean nothing. What counts is having skills, drive, agency, curiosity, frugality, integrity, self-discipline and kindness. Those forms of wealth cannot be taken from you when the bubble du jour pops and all the phantom "wealth" vanishes like mist in Death Valley."
charleshighsmith  middleclass  inequality  us  workingclass  education  class  2019  wealth  precarity 
2 days ago by robertogreco
Better Public Schools Won’t Fix Income Inequality - The Atlantic
"Like many rich Americans, I used to think educational investment could heal the country’s ills—but I was wrong. Fighting inequality must come first."

...


"Long ago, i was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America.

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself.

Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored.

But after decades of organizing and giving, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

What I’ve realized, decades late, is that educationism is tragically misguided. American workers are struggling in large part because they are underpaid—and they are underpaid because 40 years of trickle-down policies have rigged the economy in favor of wealthy people like me. Americans are more highly educated than ever before, but despite that, and despite nearly record-low unemployment, most American workers—at all levels of educational attainment—have seen little if any wage growth since 2000.

To be clear: We should do everything we can to improve our public schools. But our education system can’t compensate for the ways our economic system is failing Americans. Even the most thoughtful and well-intentioned school-reform program can’t improve educational outcomes if it ignores the single greatest driver of student achievement: household income.

For all the genuine flaws of the American education system, the nation still has many high-achieving public-school districts. Nearly all of them are united by a thriving community of economically secure middle-class families with sufficient political power to demand great schools, the time and resources to participate in those schools, and the tax money to amply fund them. In short, great public schools are the product of a thriving middle class, not the other way around. Pay people enough to afford dignified middle-class lives, and high-quality public schools will follow. But allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it.

By distracting us from these truths, educationism is part of the problem."

...

"However justifiable their focus on curricula and innovation and institutional reform, people who see education as a cure-all have largely ignored the metric most predictive of a child’s educational success: household income.

The scientific literature on this subject is robust, and the consensus overwhelming. The lower your parents’ income, the lower your likely level of educational attainment. Period. But instead of focusing on ways to increase household income, educationists in both political parties talk about extending ladders of opportunity to poor children, most recently in the form of charter schools. For many children, though—especially those raised in the racially segregated poverty endemic to much of the United States—the opportunity to attend a good public school isn’t nearly enough to overcome the effects of limited family income.

As Lawrence Mishel, an economist at the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, notes, poverty creates obstacles that would trip up even the most naturally gifted student. He points to the plight of “children who frequently change schools due to poor housing; have little help with homework; have few role models of success; have more exposure to lead and asbestos; have untreated vision, ear, dental, or other health problems; … and live in a chaotic and frequently unsafe environment.”

Indeed, multiple studies have found that only about 20 percent of student outcomes can be attributed to schooling, whereas about 60 percent are explained by family circumstances—most significantly, income. Now consider that, nationwide, just over half of today’s public-school students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, up from 38 percent in 2000. Surely if American students are lagging in the literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills our modern economy demands, household income deserves most of the blame—not teachers or their unions.

If we really want to give every American child an honest and equal opportunity to succeed, we must do much more than extend a ladder of opportunity—we must also narrow the distance between the ladder’s rungs. We must invest not only in our children, but in their families and their communities. We must provide high-quality public education, sure, but also high-quality housing, health care, child care, and all the other prerequisites of a secure middle-class life. And most important, if we want to build the sort of prosperous middle-class communities in which great public schools have always thrived, we must pay all our workers, not just software engineers and financiers, a dignified middle-class wage.

Today, after wealthy elites gobble up our outsize share of national income, the median American family is left with $76,000 a year. Had hourly compensation grown with productivity since 1973—as it did over the preceding quarter century, according to the Economic Policy Institute—that family would now be earning more than $105,000 a year. Just imagine, education reforms aside, how much larger and stronger and better educated our middle class would be if the median American family enjoyed a $29,000-a-year raise.

In fact, the most direct way to address rising economic inequality is to simply pay ordinary workers more, by increasing the minimum wage and the salary threshold for overtime exemption; by restoring bargaining power for labor; and by instating higher taxes—much higher taxes—on rich people like me and on our estates.

Educationism appeals to the wealthy and powerful because it tells us what we want to hear: that we can help restore shared prosperity without sharing our wealth or power. As Anand Giridharadas explains in his book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, narratives like this one let the wealthy feel good about ourselves. By distracting from the true causes of economic inequality, they also defend America’s grossly unequal status quo.

We have confused a symptom—educational inequality—with the underlying disease: economic inequality. Schooling may boost the prospects of individual workers, but it doesn’t change the core problem, which is that the bottom 90 percent is divvying up a shrinking share of the national wealth. Fixing that problem will require wealthy people to not merely give more, but take less."
economics  education  inequality  2019  labor  work  policy  poverty  history  nickhanauer  educationism  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  trickledowneconomics  ronaldreagan  billclinton  canon  edusolutionism  us  unemployment  billgates  gatesfoundation  democracy  wages  alicewalton  paulallen  anandgiridharadas  middleclass  class  housing  healthcare  publicschools  publiceducation  schools  learning  howwelearn  opportunity  lawrencemishel  curriculum  innovation 
6 days ago by robertogreco
The Tories have forgotten their pro-EU voters. And they’ll pay for it | John Harris | Opinion | The Guardian
There is a rising Tory fantasy about the party’s immediate post-May future, which seems to be based around victory in a general election, a new leader going back to Brussels full of swagger – and, if need be, Britain stoically going it alone. If that happens, the revolutionary, Brexit-or-nothing school of modern Conservatism will reach peak arrogance, thinking the ghost of the blessed Margaret Thatcher is cheering everything on, and that its moment of destiny has arrived. The truth is the exact opposite: whatever its delusions, hyper-Toryism – and, by extension, the Conservative party itself – is sliding into a elemental crisis from which it may never recover.
UK  EU  Brexit  politics  EuropeanParliament  election  ToryParty  McVeyEsther  Wilmslow  middleClass  Remain  CameronDavid  OsborneGeorge  BrexitParty  FarageNigel  JohnsonBoris  austerity  precarity  dctagged  dc:creator=HarrisJohn  conservatism 
28 days ago by petej
YouTube -- The James Delingpole Channel: Delingpod 15: Brendan O'Neill
'PODCAST LIVE from London, Sunday 7 April: James interviews Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spiked, world's soundest Marxist, and one of the few good men left!' -- "They think they're good people whilst we are scum of the earth."
UK  europe  backlash  middleclass  class  snark  rkselectiontheory 
9 weeks ago by adamcrowe
Brexit: Why Labour should stick to its conference strategy
Brexit is now a class struggle — between a hard right nationalist project and, on the other side, an alliance of liberal centrists, with working class socialists, Greens and the left-nationalists in Scotland and Wales. The Leave 2.0 campaign will be, in Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase, an “alliance of the elite and the mob”. The Remain campaign should be an alliance of the working class and progressive middle class and any business leaders with the guts to join it — ie excaclty the kind of formation that the left used in the mid-1930s to fight the far right.
UK  EU  Brexit  politics  LabourParty  softBrexit  referendum  PeoplesVote  StarmerKeir  Remain  reform  class  nationalism  middleClass  workingClass  dctagged  dc:creator=MasonPaul 
january 2019 by petej

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