03 February 2008

A Brief History of the American Middle Class Predicament

My friend Susan Orr pointed out this Op-Ed from the Financial Times in which Robert Reich points out that the economic predicament of middle class Americans can be traced (at least) through the 1970s. The story Reich relates is one of an unrelenting downward spiral. The mechanisms available to cope with financial stressses ~ sending more family members into the labor force, having those in the labor market working longer hours, reliance on credit, home equity, etc. ~ themselves created further stresses, economic and psychic. The result is that for many, many folks life, in economic terms at least, is not better now than it was three decades ago. (Much of this argument is born out at great statistical length by the work of the folks at the Economic Policy Institute.) It is unlikely that this tale turns out well. And, of course, there is scant prospect for political remedies. This is why the Democratic drift to the right is not only self-defeating (they offer most voters nothing) but dpressing.

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