A new report came out giving the frightening statistics about a dwindling American middle class. According to Sherle Schwenninger, "middle-income jobs are disappearing from the economy. The share of middle-income jobs in the United States has fallen from 52% in 1980 to 42% in 2010." As a card-carrying member of the middle class, this concerns me a great deal. One of the things that has made America unique in the past is the fact of a strong middle class. Plenty of third world countries have a strong aristocratic class while most of their citizens struggle. That is not a good state. It's highly undemocratic and not something that policy makers should be content with.
Poverty is the seedbed of so many ills in society. It puts people on edge. It makes people less able to be productive members of society. It leads to crime and drug trafficking. And, worst of all, it robs people of their dignity. When I volunteered at the soup kitchen, one of the things that the guests commented on was how nice it was to be well-treated. It, unfortunately, is not typical that poor people are well treated. When middle class people go out to a restaurant, they expect to be well treated. And if they aren't, they'll take their business elsewhere. Poor people don't have that kind of leverage.
Middle class people now may not think this widening gap and the erosion of the middle class matters, because they think it won't happen to them. But a whole lot of other middle class people who are now poor didn't think it would happen to them either. Unemployment is increasing, and high paying jobs are being replaced with low wage jobs. America needs real jobs if it is to truly recover from economic hardship. Flipping burgers at McDonald's doesn't cut it.
Do policy makers care about the middle class? On some level, policy makers, at least, give lip service to how important a strong American middle class is. But their actions speak to something else. Their free trade agreements decimate the middle class. What happens with free trade is that good, high paying American jobs are outsourced to other countries at $10 per hour. If President Obama were really serious about reviving, or at least not killing America's middle class, this would be illegal. These free trade agreements only benefit one group of people, and that is the super-wealthy. Meanwhile, America's middle class becomes unemployed and works at poorly paying jobs, becoming poor. Will this not only add to the coarsening of society and the vulgarity of people? Of course it will. It's something that needs to be taken seriously.