For the past four years and especially during the last presidential election, both President Obama and his running mate, Governor Romney, spoke about rebuilding the middle-class. In speaking on their respective plans to rebuild the middle-class, they each gave their definition. However, the numbers used by both Obama and Romney to define the middle-class may be too far-fetched from reality.
According to the President and his running mate, the definition adopted to define the middle-class is households with an income of $200,000 to $250,000 as the cut-off limit. This was noted on at least two occasions. During the election campaign President Obama proposed to the keep the Bush tax cuts for middle-class household earning less than $250,000, while in an ABC interview Governor Romney defined the middle-class as households where the “middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.”
Clearly, neither campaign had bothered to completely read U.S Census Bureau’s annual report, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011.” It seems that the candidates only paid attention to the number of people without health insurance and the number of people living below the poverty threshold. However, there are many interesting parts to this report, such as the level and distribution of income in 2011, which basically gives the numbers that goes to the heart of the debate on the “middle-class” and the “rich.”
What is the real definition of the middle-class? Is there a definition that is without any fuzzy labels or loose political speeches that has ballooned to give the illusion that it pertains to just about everyone? Politically speaking, numbers define the middle-class; however, there is no real world definition outside the political realm. So, how do our political leaders come up with the concept of $250,000 being the appropriate cut-off for the middle-class and where does it originate?
According to the U.S. Census report, Selected Income Percentile (Table A-2), the 2011 household median income is $50,054. The household income of $101,582, according to the table, is the top 20 percent (or 80th percentile limit), $143,611 is in the top 10 percent (or 90th percentile), and $186,000 is in the top 5 percent (or 95th percentile). The table does not include household income within the range of $200,000-$250,000, but it can be inferred from the table that such household income would fall somewhere between the top 3 or 2 percent of all household income, which can be considered to be within the 97th or 98th percentile. Furthermore, according to the report the two lowest quartile has a household income of $20,262 or less ($12,000 being 90 percent or 10th percentile and $20,262 being 20th percentile, which is 80 percent of all household income).
Based on the empirical evidence from the U.S. Census Bureau, it is problematic and tricky to understand how our political leaders or anyone can conjure up $250,000 as being middle-income. The only logical reasoning can be that our political leaders love to use words, phrases and definition that are skewed to paint an image for the American people to believe. Therefore, the misleading use and definition of the middle class can only seek to hide the current inequality of the American class structure and income.
Based on our political leaders’ definition of the middle-class, it is clear that their minds are clouded with mental pictures of only the rich. However, in the real world where the median income is $50,054 and less than 10 percent of the U.S. population makes more than $150,000, making between $200,000-$250,000 would automatically put you at the top of the pyramid. Thus, this definition of the middle-class has proven to be dishonest and absurd, which only goes to show the American people how isolated and disconnected our political leaders are from the people and reality.