Friday, January 15, 2016

There is No Middle Class

Not in the U.S., not as we used to know it, not that any politicians seem to know it. You've probably seen the reports of the survey that found that 56 percent of people in the U.S. have less than $1,000 in their checking and savings accounts combined. The details are worse.

Nearly a quarter (24.8 percent) have less than $100 to their name. Meanwhile, 38 percent said they would pay less than their full credit card balance this month, and 11 percent said they would make the minimum payment—meaning they would likely be mired in debt for years and pay more in interest than they originally borrowed.

Sometimes I mention that the middle class doesn't actually exist in the U.S. and people don't understand. This is what I mean. "Middle class" is supposed to be where the majority of citizens are, and it's supposed to rest somewhere in the middle of the poor and the rich. When the majority of people have less than $1,000 to their name and the rich tend to have billions to their name, there is no middle class by any definition of "middle class" we've ever had. We just have the people who have everything and the the people who have almost nothing.

This survey was of a little over 500 people. This is not a fantastic sample size, but don't let people fool you. It's actually well within acceptable limits for a scientific survey.

You know, it honestly still hasn't fully sunken in for me that the U.S. is a fucking mess of a country. I was raised on the lie that this is the greatest country on Earth and we have everything and are the best at everything. But in so many ways we're comparable to or worse than countries we love to refer to as "developing." Our education is horrendous. Our health care is horrendous. Our income inequality is horrendous. Our rights for women and other socially marginalized groups have fallen way behind. We imprison and kill each other at astronomical rates. By every standard that measures how well a country is functioning, we suck.

But as much as I have trouble fitting that into my head, wealthy politicians can't seem to do it at all. The news of this survey comes in hilarious tandem with the news of Hillary Clinton's promise not to increase taxes for the middle class. Or at least, who she apparently thinks the middle class are.

There's a problem with Clinton's line of attack: She is promising to exempt a lot of indisputably rich people from paying more in taxes. Clinton pledged last week that, should she become president, she wouldn't allow taxes to be raised on households earning less than $250,000 per year—by any measure a very high ceiling for the middle class.

No shit.

The median household income for 2014, according to the US Census Bureau, was $53,657, about where it has been for the past three years (though still down quite a bit from the $57,357 mark in 2007, before the recession hit). To get into the top 20 percent, a family needs to make more than $112,000 per year. Entry into the top 5 percent requires more than $206,000 in annual income.

I'm sure that to Hillary Clinton, $250,000 a year sounds like nothing. To me, someone who actually has more than $1,000 to her name and is therefore better off than more than half of the country, that sounds like more money than I would ever know what to do with.

Yet Hillary's campaign is using this pledge to attack Bernie Sanders.

"Yet Bernie Sanders has called for a roughly 9 percent tax hike on middle-class families just to cover his health care plan, and simple math dictates he'll need to tax workers even more to pay for the rest of his at least $18-20 trillion agenda."

Um, is he calling for a nine percent tax hike on middle class families, or on people who earn $250,000 a year? Because in spite of what you might think, there's a DIFFERENCE.

Ahem.

This is why we need to stop electing millionaires and billionaires to run the country. Talk about "out of touch."

No comments: