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Hullabaloo


Thursday, May 12, 2016

 

The vanishing middle class

by Tom Sullivan


Photo by Andrew Dunn via Wikimedia Commons.

The middle class is slowly disappearing in America. But you knew that.

Still, Emily Badger and Christopher Ingraham at Wonkblog have some charts on that from Pew Research that shows the shrinkage is not just in the worst-hit communities we hear about on the news. It is everywhere:

The share of adults living in middle-income households has also dwindled in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and Denver. It's fallen in smaller Midwestern metros where the middle class has long made up an overwhelming majority of the population. It's withering in coastal tech hubs, in military towns, in college communities, in Sun Belt cities.

The decline of the American middle class is "a pervasive local phenomenon," according to Pew, which analyzed census and American Community Survey data in 229 metros across the country, encompassing about three-quarters of the U.S. population. In 203 of those metros, the share of adults in middle-income households fell from 2000 to 2014.
Interestingly, in some places the middle class is shrinking not because people in the middle are falling out of it into the bottom ranks. Some are actually moving up as the middle gets hollowed out and income inequality increases.
The places with greatest net economic losses — where the shrinking middle-class has meant a sizable influx of households among the poor — are metro areas that have historically relied heavily on manufacturing, like Detroit, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Springfield, Ohio.

In only about a quarter of all of these metros does the middle class make up less than a majority of the adult population today. But the largest metros in the country fall into this group, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington. In each of these metros, the middle class is relatively small because the upper-class share of the population is larger than average.
The disappearing middle class is something our vote-seeking candidates this November might consider offering plans for addressing rather than blaming immigrants or monitoring bathrooms. Voters know their fortunes are sinking and want to elect somebody who will throw them a rope. (Hint: It's not Donald Trump.)

The plight of the slowly vanishing middle class reminds me of the imaginary slide show comedian Jackie Vernon gave back in the day about his trip to the Everglades:
Here's Guido the Guide leading me around a bed of quicksand. [click]
Here's Guido the Guide from the waist up. [click]
That's his hat right there.
A slowly sinking American must feel like Guido. She/he would best not count on the "short-fingered vulgarian" to throw a line. Trump would call you a loser and just hire a replacement.