America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People
This piece argues that the problem is going beyond a shrinking or death of the middle class, but that the U.S. is becoming like two different countries. In fact, it's looking more and more like those "developing" nations that have a huge gap between the wealthy and the poor and nothing in between. Hunger Games, anyone?
The two sectors, notes Temin, have entirely distinct financial systems, residential situations, and educational opportunities. Quite different things happen when they get sick, or when they interact with the law. They move independently of each other. Only one path exists by which the citizens of the low-wage country can enter the affluent one, and that path is fraught with obstacles. Most have no way out.
Peter Temin, the economist cited, draws on the model created by West Indian economist and Nobel Prize winner W. Arthur Lewis. It also does a nice job of citing the roles of racist and sexism in the creation and preservation of this massive gap in wealth that's creating a truly divided nation. This is referred to as a "dual economy," and the author of the article, Lynn Parramore, checks off the list created by Lewis.
In the Lewis model of a dual economy, much of the low-wage sector has little influence over public policy. Check. The high-income sector will keep wages down in the other sector to provide cheap labor for its businesses. Check. Social control is used to keep the low-wage sector from challenging the policies favored by the high-income sector. Mass incarceration - check. The primary goal of the richest members of the high-income sector is to lower taxes. Check. Social and economic mobility is low. Check.
After explaining how this bullshit happened (thanks a lot Nixon), Parramore ends by noting that this system leaves the nation vulnerable to massive social upheaval if the effects aren't reversed. And by the looks of things, they're not about to be reversed any time soon. Prepare for revolution.