By Wiha Powell
America: a country founded on liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the ideals of life. The notion of the American middle class is centered on four pillars: a chance to retire at age 65, a chance to send their children to college, work in order to afford a comfortable lifestyle, and access to good medical care. However, the current financial and economic crisis, and the constant increase in unemployment are causing millions of middle class families to lose their homes or become jobless. As a result, this crisis is steadily chipping away at the four pillars that built the American middle class, which eventually will cause it to sway and sooner or later come to an end.
Can you imagine America without its middle class?
The American middle class is slowly being wiped out. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 there were 46.2 million Americans living below the poverty line – an increase from 43.6 million in 2009 (a poverty rate of 15.1% in 2010, an increase from 14.3% in 2009). Moreover, the Census reported that the current 2010 poverty rate of 15.1% is the highest rate in 52 years.
As of today, there are 13.9 million Americans unemployed or underemployed. There are millions of individuals and families who cannot afford to make the minimum payment on their credit cards; there are also millions who have now defaulted on their mortgages or facing foreclosure. Presently, a record number of people are currently receiving food stamps and thousands of Americans are filing for bankruptcy every month. Furthermore, the devastating economy is wiping out billions of dollar in pension and savings funds, leaving millions of middle class families struggling to make ends meet, and this, is only a few of the misfortunes facing the current middle class.
This slow, but undoubted depletion of the American middle class started in or around 1970, where there was a rise in productivity, but the average wages for full-time employees remained stagnant. Currently, the household median income is at a measly $49,455, and with the price of household expenses inflating daily, middle class families are now spending twice as much on their mortgages, food, daycare and health insurances causing them to struggle in order to keep their heads above water. Even in two-income households, the constant increase of essential goods and services is suffocating; as a result, there is hardly any money to save for a ‘rainy day’.
Presently, it is not only extremely expensive to live a middle class lifestyle, but it is also quite costly to get there. Moreover, the notion that a college education is the meal ticket for higher wages and a better lifestyle is no longer true, not with the increasing cost of education and the substantial amount of people with college degrees being underemployed.
In the midst of the burden facing the middle class, the American Dream is experiencing a dramatic change. Fewer people are buying homes causing more young people to postpone their independent lives since there are no jobs available for college graduates. If the younger generation is unable to get their feet off the ground, this poses extreme challenges for the middle class and the economy in the future.
With today’s expenses on the rise, setting aside money for children’s college fund or even putting away money for retirement has now become a distant dream for many middle class families. This ongoing economic and financial crisis of America is forcing millions of once secure and affluent middle class families to live from paycheck to paycheck, while watching their debts increase. The result: millions of middle class families worrying that they too will soon be getting a pink slip or a health scare that will send them over the economic precipice.
So, can you imagine America without its strong middle class?
The once sturdy and sound foundation of the American middle class is now shaky, thus the middle class is slowly dying, and once it is gone, it is extremely hard to restore.