The Disappearing Middle Class by David Atkins

The disappearing middle class

by David Atkins

Pretty soon we'll have to stop calling it the "middle" class:

The Great Recession and its aftermath have hit California's middle class so severely that it isn't even technically in the middle any longer.

In a study released Wednesday, the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California reports that the proportion of households it defines as the middle class — those with annual incomes between $44,000 and $155,000 — has dropped below half, to 49.7 percent.

Households below that level account for 36.6 percent of Californians, and those above account for 13.7 percent.

The percentage of Californians in the middle class is the lowest in at least 30 years, the report says, and has consistently fallen since its peak of 60 percent in 1980.

The report's definition of the middle class, said co-author Sarah Bohn, is households with incomes between two and seven times the federal poverty guidelines, which are adjusted every year and allow researchers to measure "a consistent level of income over time."

The decline in the middle class comes as incomes dropped across the board from 2007 to 2010, the report says.

The sharpest income decline — 21 percent — was felt among those at the 10th percentile, while those at the 90th percentile saw their incomes drop by just 5 percent.

As a result, the report says, income inequality in California, which has historically been higher than the rest of the nation, has reached a new high.

The story in California is being repeated across the country. Everyone in America but the top 1% is losing ground. The wealthiest of the rest lose ground more slowly, with the most rapid declines among the poorest Americans.

Sounds like the best answer to this problem is more austerity, safety net slashing and tax cuts for the rich. The Village says so, so it must be true.

Also, check out the comments section to the article to get a sense of the fever swamp of ignorance and right-wing culture war obsession that defines so many voters even in coastal California. For forty percent of the country or so, there is no amount of evidence that will ever convince them that they're getting screwed by the top 1%. Even when the middle class is basically gone and all that's left is the very wealthy and the impoverished underclass, these fools will still be blaming taxes, environmental regulations and minorities for everything. And yet, those of us who know better are supposed to feel other than contempt for them.