Decline in the Middle Class in America by Cindy Cross
Is the middle class doomed? The huge disparity between the number of wealthy and those living above the poverty level is growing at an alarming rate.
Consider the following statistics; in 1988, the average income of the American taxpayer, adjusted for inflation was $33,400. The average taxpayer income in 2009 was $40,711; with the same adjustment in inflation, this amount would be equal to the $33,000 from 1988. In contrast, the average income of the top 1% in America is $380,000, with a growth of over 33% in the last 20 years.
Even more sobering is the poverty level. According to the government website ASPC.hhs.gov, a person making $22,350 is in the lowest working class echelon in our society, and is living in ‘poverty.’ Less than $20,000 separates those in the middle class and those living in poverty when more than $300,000 is the gap between middle and upper class Americans.
With a presidential candidate Mitt Romney saying, “Corporations are people too,” it would not be unreasonable to imagine the average middle income lowering enough to meld with the poverty level, thereby eliminating the middle class all together Why help Americans when corporations are in need?
Corporations are sending jobs overseas leaving many American blue collar workers unemployed. The Bay Bridge is being built and constructed in China, with Chinese steel. The stone sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr., recently unveiled in Washington D.C. was done by a Chinese artist and constructed by Chinese workers. These artists, who may not have understood the nature of their subject, showed Martin Luther King Jr. in a more serious, patriotic stance rather than the emotion evoking, life changing essence that the spirit King will hold over generations of Americans he inspires. Had an American artist completed the sculpture, both the spirit and grace of King may have been better portrayed. But alas, even American art is made in China.
Unless we bring back jobs from China and other foreign countries, Americans will all either become very wealthy, or barely making it.
With this enormous gap in income, how can those in the government leadership scoff at the thought of increasing taxes for the wealthy?
Here are some statistics that show the decline in the middle class:
• 83% of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1% of the people.
• 61 % of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 % in 2008 and 43 % in 2007.
• 66 % of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
• 36 % of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings.
• 43 % of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.
• 24 % of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.
• Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 % increase over 2008.
• Only the top 5 % of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
• For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
• The bottom 50 % of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 % of the nation’s wealth.
• The top 1 % of U.S. households owns nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
• More than 40 % of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
• Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a 16 % to 7.8 million in 2009.
• The top 10 % of Americans now earn around 50 % of our national income.
Warren Buffett, American business magnate and the world’s third wealthiest man recently wrote an article for the New York Times. In his article, titled, ‘Stop Coddling the Super Rich,’ he says, “But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate. My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice. “
Many scoffed at Buffett’s ideas and suggested that he write a check to the U.S. Treasury if he was so interested in the rich giving their ‘fair share.’
The late real estate investor and billionaire Leona Helmsley, better known as the ‘Queen of Mean,’ was right when she said, “Only the little people pay taxes.” So strong was her conviction against paying taxes, that in 1989 she was tried and convicted of federal tax evasion, and spent nineteen months in prison.