By the Numbers: The Incredibly Shrinking American Middle Class

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A typical American household made about $51,017 in 2012, according to new figures out from the Census Bureau this week. That number may sound familiar to anyone who remembers George H. W. Bush’s first year as president or Michael Jackson in his prime. That’s because household income in 2012 is similar to what it was in 1989 (but back then it was actually higher: you had an extra $600 or so to spend compared to today).

That sobering statistic gives an indication of where the American middle class appears to be headed. Take a look below at a snapshot of where the middle class is now, the problems they face and what our Facebook audience has to say about squeaking out a living these days.

A note on the term “middle class”: There is no single, universal definition so we turned to economic analyst Robert Reich – who spoke to us this week – for some direction. Reich suggested defining middle class as those with income levels 50 percent above and below the median income. Median is a term that means the “middle of the middle.” Median earnings are a key indicator of how the middle class is doing.

A Snapshot

The income range to be considered middle class:$25,500 – $76,500

The median middle class household income in 2012: $51,017
and in 1989: $51,681

Year inflation-adjusted median household income peaked at $56,080: 1999

Income needed in a two parent, two child home in St. Louis for an adequate living standard: $64,673
and in New York City: $94,676

The Problem

Share of self-described middle-class adults who say it’s more difficult now than a decade ago for middle-class people to maintain their standard of living: 85

Percentage of Americans that consider themselves to be “lower class” (the highest percentage ever): 8.4

Percentage increase in salary growth for the median worker from 1979 to 2012: 5

Percentage drop in average real income per family since 2007: 8.3

The median net worth of a family in 2010: $77,300
and in 2007: $126,400

Percentage of Americans that are unemployed/underemployed rate: 14

Number of states in which poverty rates rose between 2007 and 2010: 46

Approximate poverty rate from 2009 to 2012: 15

The last time it remained at or above 15 percent for three years running: 1965

The Work

Average number of hours U.S. workers put in annually: 1,790
what the Norwegians work: 1,420
and the French: 1,479

Percent increase in productivity from 1979 to 2012: 75

What the median middle-class income ($51,017) would be if wages grew at the same rate: $77,131
(Check out this handy tool from EPI to see what your income would be if it had kept up with productivity.)

Number of guaranteed days of paid vacation given to U.S. workers: 0

Number of vacation days U.S. workers are entitled to, but don’t take, in a typical year: 175 million

Number of paid maternity days in Germany: 98 (100% pay)
Number of paid maternity days in France: 112 (100% pay)
Number of paid maternity days in U.S.: 0

Number of industrialized countries that do not mandate paid maternity leave: 1
(yes, the U.S. is the only one that does not require paid leave.)

The Costs

Average out-of-pocket health care expenses per household in 2012: $3,600
and in 2011: $3,280
and in 2005: $2,035

Average amount needed to send a child to an in-state college for the 2012-13 academic year: $22,261
and for a private college: $43,289

Percentage of Americans near retirement with less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts: 75

Percentage increase in housing prices since 1990: 56

Share of Americans that do not have enough money saved to pay their bills for six months: 3/4

The Inequality

Percentage of income gains captured by the top 1 percent in the first three years of the economic recovery: 95

Percentage income growth since 1967 for the top 5 percent of earners: 88
and for the top 20 percent of earners: 70
and for middle-income households: 20

Average income of top 1 percent: $1.2 million

Average net worth of the top 1 percent: $16.4 million

The share of wealth held by the richest 400 Americans: 1/2

The median household net worth in 2010: $57,000
and in 1983: $73,000

Percentage of the 1 percenters who said they were “middle class at heart”: 76

The total number of Americans living in poverty — with incomes of $23,492 for a family of four or $11,720 for an individual: 46.5 million

What Our Viewers Say

Our Facebook audience told us how they’re managing the middle class squeeze. See more of their comments or leave your own below.


“Tried to do the right thing all our lives — raised a great kid, had good paying jobs. It’s all gone now, we will probably lose the house. We’re working at jobs making a third of what we used to. There is no bail out for the middle class, just the banksters and gangsters like Mitt Romney and his class.”
– Stan Stritzel

“‘Seriously thinking of moving overseas. Economically, many countries are struggling, but they seem to still have better quality of life. Not everything is perfect, there is still crime, there are still rich stupid idiots, but there is less of the government being the evil empire as much as here in the U.S. and more support for smaller less, global corporations. Environmental concerns are evident in legislation and policies. Healthcare is a right which supersedes any right to carry a gun in public. Someone once wrote, ‘Americans have rights to protection; Europeans have rights to be protected from.’’”
– Saundra Hopkins

“As a Union member I am at the top of the range — we made it through the recession so far and I’m feeling hopeful for my future, but the way union’s are vilified by so many of the 99% it is scary. I am fearful for the future of organized labor as a relevant force due to complacency of its members.”
– Matthew Buckley

” I’m a public school teacher in Los Angeles. I can’t support myself and my husband on what I make. We sink further and further into debt every month. I’m scared to death of illness, or of my 22 year old car breaking down.” — Ellen Abramson Cohen

“We’re a country on the verge of change and revolution: the fat cats and their puppets are forcing everybody’s hand.” — W Allan Goode

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  • Anonymous

    The reality is that middle class wealth, for the most part, is the value of their primary residences. On average their retirement plans, for those who have one, only have an average of $30,000. The middle class is the engine of consumer spending, and as a result have spent (with directly earned monies and consumer debt) itself virtually into oblivion with increasing indebtedness and income security. Those whose job earnings have enabled them to save, beyond expending income to pay necessary day-to-day and month-to-month living costs, have faired a bit better. But even so, though millions of Americans own diluted stock value through the “stock market exchanges,” purchased with their earnings as labor workers, their stock holdings are relatively miniscule, as are their dividend payments compared to the top 10 percent of capital owners. On the other hand, the rich are rich because they own wealth-creating, income-generating productive capital assets which earn them dividends, rent, and interest income. Thus their income gains are due to equity market valuations and major business ownershipt.

    This difference or inequality is a matter of OWNING productive capital assets versus NOT OWNING and solely dependent on a job for income. As tectonic shifts in the technologies of production will continue to transpire, jobs will further be destroyed (which increases the number of people seeking employment) and the worth of labor devalued, as well as by globalization, which shifts employment to other countries where labor is less costly as well as regulations and controls.

    Conventional economists continue to confuse the incomes that the wealthy rich class earn with the incomes earned from labor. What needs to be STRESSED is that the reason the rich are rich is because their earnings are generated by their ownership of wealth-creating, income-generating productive capital assets––not a job! Labor workers ONLY have a job (and increasingly less opportunity for good-paying jobs) as their source of income. And if they are creditworthy they will have managed to finance and pay for the purchase of a primary residence, which at the end of 30 or so years is the asset of their lifetime. But they dare not sell this asset (because they always need a roof over their heads) unless they can re-purchase another residence that meets their housing needs at less cost and benefit financially from a capital gain earning. But most Americans never even achieve this small degree of financial security and continuously live financially insecure their entire life.

    This deplorable situation will worsen as long as we as a nation fails to address the REAL problem at the root of income inequality and poverty––CONCENTRATED OWNERSHIP of wealth-creating, income-generating productive capital. And to advocate for solutions that systematically broaden private sector individual ownership of the formation of FUTURE productive capital investment to empower EVERY American to accumulate over time a viable capital trust (super-IRA) portfolio of stock in diversified companies and reap the full earnings payout of corporate earnings as dividend income to support their livelihood and retirement. Such economic policy will build REAL financial security and wealth assets that generate annual incomes.

    What is needed is leadership and government policies that result in the enrichment of EVERY citizen, not just those who already OWN America. How to achieve this solution is outlined in “Financing Economic Growth With ‘FUTURE SAVINGS’: Solutions To Protect America From Economic Decline” at NationOfChange.org http://www.nationofchange.org/financing-future-economic-growth-future-savings-solutions-protect-america-economic-decline-137450624 and “The Income Solution To Slow Private Sector Job Growth” at http://www.nationofchange.org/income-solution-slow-private-sector-job-growth-1378041490.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Moyers, like most people, confuse the traditional “middle class” with the numerical “middle class.” Traditionally/socially, 80% of Americans knew they were working class, considered professional people, small business owners, and company management as middle class by some other term, the people between the working class and very rich owner class. Read the pre-WW 2 novels, even “Nancy Drew.” Professional people always have “live in” servants. These days how many doctors, lawyers, engineers, store managers . . . have “live in” servants?

    Numerical middle class is considered MEDIAN income +/- 20 percentile. This would make sense if income distribution fell on a Bell Curve, but it doesn’t. If MEAN (average) income distribution was plotted against the same data set as mean income it would be obvious that the person earning median income was poor compared to the person making the mean (average) income.

    So far, I can not find income statistics that plot both median and mean numbers on the same charting interval. A 20% interval, even a 10% interval is to small to show the difference between the bottom half and the top 1%

  • Anonymous

    The middle class is being looted by a government captured/controlled by cronies. Wealth is being transferred to replace the wealth these (TBTF) institutions lost during the 2008 downturn — our Republic is now a fascist Kleptocracy. Elections cannot fix the problem anymore because our governments, federal and state, have purchased enough votes (.gov workers, welfare recipients, etc.) to ensure no meaningful changes can occur. The looting will continue until the middle class disappears and our currency collapses.

    This issue can no longer be framed as Republican vs. Democrat or liberal vs. conservative. I see it as a connected elite that wishes unfettered access to power. George Orwell said it best in the novel “Nineteen Eighty Four”:

    “Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know what no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

  • http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com/ John Bailo

    Being middle class is so bourgeois.

  • JonThomas

    Saying bourgeois is so bourgeois. :-D

  • JonThomas

    If I may add to your words, I would like to carry your excellently-proven last point a bit further.

    It is worse than a myth. At best It’s a pacifier.

    At worst it’s a soporific. A narcotic, an opiate. A calming, sleep inducing, mesmerizing false promise. A spell.

    I, for one, am very sympathetic toward those who wake up from the slumber.

    The thing that is difficult, is waking people up while they are under the delusion. They often scream the loudest when you try to tell them they are being manipulated. It really is like dealing with an addict who still has not realized their course. Like waking up a person in deep, deep sleep.

    The goal of retirement – that carrot on a stick – along with the ‘American Dream,’ patriotism, exceptionalism, pride, et al, are such strong focusing agents, that all evidence can be screaming…’you are going down an increasingly dangerous road…’ but all attention is on the objective, and all trust is in the leader (often behind you directing and benefiting from your efforts… Being behind you while holding the reigns gives you the illusion that you are leading and directing yourself.)

    While at the same time, these same ‘leaders’ are building the road ahead, and making the map, and deciding the rules of the road.

    Like an insidious instigator whispering falsehoods and weaving a narrative, whether intentionally or not, they exploit and manipulate your efforts.

    These inducements play on similar paths of the brain as hypnotic suggestions. They require trust in order to get you to surrender your own clear thinking, and your power.

    They use our innate bonding drives. Humans have few, if any true instincts. We learn. In order to learn, we find a role model. We essentially bond and mimic. This is very simplified, and there are many other components at work, but when we bond to a person, or an idea, and allow it to guide us…trusting that it has our best interests as the goal, then we follow it,. We promote it, and we defend it.

    Whenever we see people who choose a course that is working against their best interests, often times it can be attributed to this process.

    It can be counter-productive to attack someone still under the influence. Patience and skill can help someone awake, but it usually takes an ‘event.’

    I’m sorry I kept mixing metaphors, I hope I didn’t give you whiplash. It’s difficult to express, and gently sympathize with the frustrations experienced when you ‘followed all the rules,’ but were led to a slaughter.

    The first reaction is anger, but usually there’s really no one person to be angry at, it’s a system. It’s not even fully your own fault. I say there’s a spirit behind it, but this isn’t that forum.

    Anyway, it’s always sad to hear from people like yourselves. It’s all too common these days. I hope you have a good support network. Maybe your example can influence the younger generations. I hope you can motivate others to take control of whatever power they have of their own.

    People must take the reigns of their own lives and we must stand against anyone, and anything that deludes.

  • Brett Greshko

    Am I reading this graph wrong? It looks like the top 25% have increased income and the middle and lower class have remained the same. That’s not really shrinking the middle class, it’s a growing the upper class.

  • JonThomas

    Whether it’s ‘enough’ or not, it has to be done.

    It’s a matter of principle. Practically speaking, it’s funneling your energies in what you can determine as the most positive, ‘life affirming’ directions.

    Just like eating, drinking, and breathing. In order to advance and maintain life, one must choose the actions and thoughts which are in line with promoting life’s best interests.

  • JonThomas

    I guess you mean the 2nd graph.

    I understand it, in the context of growing and shrinking the ‘classes,’ to mean that the number of people who are being (should be) considered middle class, is what is shrinking.

    It’s not the wallet size of each individual that is being measured by the percentage, it’s the number of wallets that fit into the middle class.

    So, if the (wallet size) measure of how much it takes to fit into the ‘upper class’ is growing, and less people are measuring up, then more people are losing ‘middle class’ status.

    Worse…if the buying power of what used to be considered a middle class wallet shrinks, then more of those (formerly considered middle class) sized wallets are now in a lower class.

    At least that’s my take.

  • cgmcle

    Your first sentence, after the question, is mostly right – but the 5% (red line) on the graph is part of, broken out from, the top 20% (orange line). While economists often refer to quintiles (intervals of 20%) to make comparisons, the income and wealth gaps have been most exceptionally conspicuous when looking at the top few percent, and especially at the top 1/100th of the top 1% (in other words, the top 1 in 10,000 households).

    The point is that historically the buying power (income adjusted for inflation) of the large majority of Americans has steadily increased over the years. Since around 1980, however, the buying power of most Americans has not increased at all, remaining essentially the same over the past few decades, while the buying power of the wealthy has increased at an unprecedented rate.

    For most of the last few quarters, corporate profits have reached record and near-record highs as a percent of GDP, while wages have fallen to record and near-record lows as a percent of GDP ( e.g., Forbes on-line, Dec 4, 2012: “3rd Quarter Corporate Profits Reach Record High – Worker Pay Hits
    Record Low: So How Exactly Is Obama The ‘Anti-Business’ President?”). In other words, the higher corporate profits rise, the larger the share (percent) of the profits the corporate aristocrats feel entitled to. And that leaves less for everyone else.

  • jim cowan

    Revolution may come but by that time the super-rich will have joined the money they stashed in safe havens overseas. They are running as scared as anyone else but they have something and somewhere to run to.

  • JonThomas

    You are right Susan, ‘they ARE creating their own reality.’

    Imagine it… put energy into it… and live it. That doesn’t make it truth, but it does make it ‘real,’ it gives it ‘life.’

    Makes me think of (what’s now I suppose) an old song from David Byrne/The Talking Heads…”City of Dreams.”

    Through the mechanisms of power and influence, this fabricated reality is ubiquitous. It is taken as truth, and indeed it cannot be ignored.

    However, just like dreams, when the situation becomes agitating, and the dreaming person becomes fitful, they can awaken.

    Some people enjoy the dream. Some people truly benefit from the dream. The more power you gain in the dreamscape, the more ability you have to influence outcomes, and manipulate other dreamers.

    From the Bible – to – “Dune,” it’s a very old, and very true understanding of the nature of existence. Few people ever ‘wake up.’ And when they do, they are not always welcome.

    The insidious ones are those who know it’s a dream, and yet…

    Perhaps the most well known expression of the concept seen in pop culture comes from Frank Herbert…

    “Without change something sleeps inside us and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”

    “The sleeper must awaken!!”

    Is there something else ‘we’ could be doing? What do you want to do? I would tell you to seek the truth.

    There is always a tipping point for both the individual and the group (regardless of size.) However, the more people that are putting energy into the fabrication, the stronger the illusion, the more ‘boosters’ facilitating the experience, the the more difficult it becomes to awaken. Usually though, just as an unconscious dreamer on the verge of consciousness, the dream only transforms.

    To wake someone out of sleep, must of us like to be gentle…it’s often the best way to have the person start out the day…but some people are awoken harshly.

    However you choose to act, just keep in mind the things that bolster consciousness…rationality, reason, supporting what is good and righteous, denying the bad to to take root, love, integrity, respect…

    There is a scripture from the Bible…Ephesians Chpt. 6 10-20…I know this isn’t the forum, but it’s an apt read.

    Who knows, maybe the dreamer will awaken… but maybe, welcomed or not, the truth itself will manifest.

  • Anonymous

    This comment makes me want to scream. I hope other Americans are not planning this for their own retirement. Why aren’t Americans recognizing their own suffering and the destruction of their own human dignity? Even anesthesia cannot knock out pain this long.

  • DavidW

    We can push ownership culture down to the people with cooperative enterprise, think Food Co-ops and Credit Unions as two examples. We need to build out our local economies and take market share away, competition, that something they’ll understand. We do this concurrently with political organization as our political democracy stands upon a shaky foundation of economic democracy.

  • DavidW

    We have to compete and take “market share” away from these business sectors that fund the 1%. Let’s cut off their “royalty” payments. Politics and economics are intertwined and the 1% have figured this out. They are practicing economic totalitarianism.

  • Anonymous

    My point we need to implement policies that provide EQUALITY of opportunity so that EVERY American can be productive through his or her contribution of OWNED wealth-creating, income-generating productive capital assets, which is exponentially replacing the need for labor workers. The system needs to be reformed by policies that provide opportunities for ordinary Americans, without savings or high incomes, to acquire shares of ownership in FUTURE productive capital assets and pay for their acquisition with the earnings of the investments. Broadening ownership is the ONLY way to ensure prosperity for EVERY American while protecting the private property rights of those who own. It is the ONLY way to counter the job destroying and worth devaluation of labor due to tectonic shifts in the technologies of production.

    Corporations should beincentivized to pay out 100 percent of earnings and instead of using retained earnings and debt financing, neither of which creates any new owners, issue and sell new stock whose purchase would be accomplished using insured capital credit loans issued by local banks to ordinary Americans, with the loans paid back from the earnings of the investments.

    As far as using tax policy to “redistribute” income generated by those who already own, as a substitute for inheritance and gift taxes, a transfer tax would be imposed on the recipients whose holdings exceeded $1 million, thus encouraging the super-rich
    to spread out their monopoly-sized estates to all members of their family, friends, servants and workers who helped create their fortunes, teachers, health workers, police, other public servants, military veterans, artists, the poor and the disabled.

  • Don Nasca

    A flat income line is the same as shrinking because there is no growth in income while the cost of everything has risen sharply. This forced both parent to go to work and still not enjoy any gain while the top sucks away all the gain for themselves. This is because the rich nominate the politicians they want in office, (our vote is just to pick one of their favorites), they write the laws, and pay the politicians to make sure labor has no representation whatsoever. They pay for all the TV and radio ads and all the conservative talking heads to explain why the pain we are feeling is not because of the nice rich people, but because of the poor, lazy worker who wants a fair shot at a decent life. When their term is up, the get a nice $1M+ per year consulting gig for doing nothing more that making sure the next guy in office follows the game plan.

    PS. I don’t blame the rich for their greed; they laugh on the way to the bank. I blame the worker for not having the common sense needed to understand how the game is played and for falling for the nonsense the corporate media and politicians shove down their throats. Change will only come if we insist our children learn about logic and reason so they can filter out all the lies we are fed everyday.

  • Anonymous

    My point is that the focus needs to be on implementing policies that provide EQUALITY of opportunity so that EVERY American can be productive through his or her contribution of OWNED wealth-creating, income-generating productive capital assets, which is exponentially replacing the need for labor workers. The system needs to be reformed by policies that provide opportunities for ordinary Americans, without savings or high incomes, to acquire shares of ownership in FUTURE productive capital assets and pay for their acquisition with the earnings of the investments. Broadening ownership is the ONLY way to ensure prosperity for EVERY American while protecting the private property rights of those who own. It is the ONLY way to counter the job destroying and worth devaluation of labor due to tectonic shifts in the technologies of production.

    Capital Homesteading offers every child, woman, and man – citizen – an opportunity to become an productive capital OWNER and have a Warren Buffett Berkshire Hathaway (like) wealth-creating, income-generating portfolio.

    As for tax policy, we need to incentivize corporations to pay out 100 percent of their earnings and finance their growth through the issuance and selling of new stock, instead of using retained earnings and debt, which further concentrates wealth ownership and does not create new owners.

    As a substitute for inheritance and gift taxes, a transfer tax would be imposed on the recipients whose holdings exceeded $1 million, thus encouraging the super-rich to spread out their monopoly-sized estates to all members of their family, friends, servants and workers who helped create their fortunes, teachers, health workers, police, other public servants, military veterans, artists, the poor and the disabled.

  • Diane

    Proves again how “exceptional” the US is!! In the wrong way!

  • Anonymous

    I would like to see median income plus fringe benefits.

    In capitalism, competition takes away profit and the rise
    of Asian workers caused a profit squeeze on US companies which
    adjusted by lowering wages of all but the super few who add the most to profit.
    America’s live free or die attitude stopped unions and governments
    from helping the middle class and we are where we are.

    It is really not that bad, Fifteen years ago when this all this started everyone was riding high with the dot com bubble and a housing bubble and income was at its peak. Income has been flat since it was really really good! That’s not terrible.

    I’m seventy years-old and seen a lot worse!
    Compare the last ten years to the worst period I have encountered. Starting in 1962 when we almost ended it all over Cuban missiles, then three assassinations because of political unrest, a horrible Vietnam War and resulting Kent State student killings by the US National Guard, add Watergate, two oil embargos and stagflation. It all ended in 1984 with the twin towers of debt which were sure to mean the end of civilization as we knew it! 1984 was an ironical date to the twenty plus years on economic and social carnage as the world of fear created by politics and described by Orwell seems to be happening now!

  • Randy

    1. Money doesn’t buy as much in the US as elsewhere
    2. It doesn’t have to be capitalist OR communist, it can be somewhere in between
    3. No one is telling us to become communist. We should have a mixed economy that truly allows a free market system and protect the poor and the people.

  • Anonymous

    Was the Soviet Union (I take it you don’t mean today’s Russia) truly communist? Socialist, somewhat, perhaps. Mainly in education and healthcare, the arts, sciences — they spent a lot of money in those areas, true. But there was plenty of inequality and racism there, so I would not call that ideal socialism. Not sure about China, although I see that the CP is firmly in control over their “free market” system; my sense is they have not given up state control entirely.

    The US and most European nations are in debt, to a greater or less extent. I think you may mean to differentiate them by solvency; other than Germany and maybe a few others, most European countries have debts to pay. I am not sure I agree with your sweeping judgment. Also not sure what you mean by throwing away America; who is throwing it away? If you are talking to the bankers, this would not be the venue. Or at least, you should indicate who the audience for your remark is intended.

  • Anonymous

    Do you mean “socialist?” These two terms are used interchangeably without much thought.

  • Rick Archer

    You have to have three things in this country for it to work for the masses. You need big government (not to spy on you or tell you what to do) to build infrastructure and support small business so capitalism can happen. With capitalism anyone can be a business owner, but the government regulates the safety of workers and inspects the products that consumers will use. You also need some socialism so that everyone can maintain a decent living and be healthy. Social security is a socialist program that pays for itself. It helps those in need. With some socialism, capitalism would become what it is now, something out of a Dickens novel. Single payer health care is another area we are far behind other industrialized nations. It’s great for everyone except the insurance industry who might have to give lower rates with better benefits and no preexisting conditions clauses.

    As of now the government (over the last 40 years) has failed with infrastructure because large corporations were and are not being taxed appropriately, or at all. The large corporations are not being taxed appropriately (but are getting billions in corporate welfare), so our infrastructure is failing. Government can no longer protect its’ citizens because of budget squeezes, once again brought on buy the crooked bankers, CEOs, Wall Street types and their pool boy politicians. Everyone got hurt by the recession except for the big boys who hid their cash in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. With the help of their politician friend they’ve also convinced much of American that the poor, middle class and illegals are to blame for all that is wrong with this country. We have become a country of idiotic sheep. Wake up people it will only get worse.

  • Rick Archer

    This is not about that. This is about the corporate take over of our rights with the help of the politicians.

  • Rick Archer

    The dollar doesn’t buy what it did in 1989. Not even half. When I graduated from high school gas was 42 cents a gallon. Am I getting the same bang for my buck. I don’t think so.

  • Anonymous

    LOL…I love all the pseudo-intellectual comments made. Espically from Robert Reich…he’s part of the problem!

  • Rick Archer

    Oh, and how is that? Because you live in the great state of Texas? I live her too and can tell you that Texas is one of the most corrupt states in the union. It has brought us to the point we are at with imbeciles like GW Bush and Dick Cheney (He lived here while with Halliburton). Some people are born, live and die in Texas never leaving the state. Reich is telling the truth. You just don’t like it because you’re GOP.

  • Anonymous

    Denise, you need to get educated. Those numbers are so wrong. And how can you compare per capita income of the entire world to the United States? You are assuming the rest of the world has the same resources we have which is absolutely false. Stop drinking the Fox News Kool Aid

  • Anonymous

    You just proved my point about pseudo-intellectual comments…keep swinging for the fences! Stay thirsty my friend!

  • Rick Archer

    I prove nothing except that you can tell us why Reich is wrong. Typical BS from the sound bite group. Show us you have a brain and tell us why he is wrong. I can’t wait to hear this.

  • Ms_Phillips

    Americans can’t “just move overseas.” Other countries also restrict immigration. You’d have to have skills that are in short supply & needed. We thought about this too & found out it ain’t that easy.

  • JenellYB

    No, they are not running scared at all. They know there will be a tipping point, people in this country will revolt against them, but they are already, you can bet on it, planning and laying the groundwork for where they will shift their operations to next, Wherever in the world economies are starting to strengthen, they will move in like vultures.

  • mcalip

    It’s not about Republicans. It’s not about Democrats. They both are to blame. During the government shutdown, how many “politicians” had the balls to stand up for the American people? NONE! We have no “statesmen” in Congress, only self-interested “politicians”. As long as you keep arguing about Republicans and Democrats you remain part of the problem! They ALL need to be put out of office and term limits need to be set. Enough with the life-time salaries and health benefits.

  • Fish

    One important item not mentioned by this story is that, between 1970 and 2012, there were HUGE increases in the percentage of women in the workforce. Not only has the American middle class lost ground, but it now earns less with TWO wage earners than it did before with ONE. Not only have they stolen our money, they’ve stolen our kids’ rights to have their parents around to take care of them.

  • Potosino78

    It is not about income inequality or GOP’s agenda or NRA. It is as someone said it before, this system is “fixed” to do what is intented to. Produce more for the few on top at the expense of the most. One important contributor is education inequality and motionless thinking for the more advantaged. No one wants to do something about it. We just feel confortable watching this free fall. God help us all or nature will take its course.

  • USMC0341

    Everyone on this forum wants to blame someone else. While I agree the 1 percent and the special interest groups are milking the system, there is still much to be had. Instead, most Americans would rather watch football then make the necessary adjustments. I have numerous coworkers who, rather then work with their child to develop marketable skills, such as STEM skills, spend the weekend at football camps. Then, when it is time to go to college, rather then focus on a major that yields a good job, they go to a crappy school and play football, where they study English or Fine Arts. The child does not go pro, is left with a mountain of debt, and can not find work other then as server. We have our child tutored during the summer in math. Sure it is expensive, but you can find ways. We cut cable, use cheap cell phones, and drive regular cars. My neighbors, they complain they can’t afford to do that, yet they hire someone to mow their small yard, hire house cleaners to clean their home, have a 180$ cable bill every month, and each member has an iPhone. I was talking with their kids the other day, they are 10th grade and have not began to think about college, and spend every night playing video games. What a rude awakening they will have when they graduate college with degree in fine arts. On the other hand, Indian and Asians spend their time tutoring their children, exposing them to STEM fields at a young age, and establishing good study habits that carry forward into college. If an immigrant family with limited knowledge of the culture can raise successful children, then there is no excuse for Americans.

  • Dwayne Wayne

    Market is back higher than ever. Your nest egg should be restored as long as your investors didn’t do something stupid.

  • Anonymous

    This data is pretty poorly presented. The x/y axis on the chart was designed to make the decline from 1999 to 2012 look steeper, for one thing. Many of the data points about there being fewer people in the middle class are about people’s perception, not actual data. Etc.

    I have a slightly different take on the hard data:

    - the “middle class” is slightly declining, but not much
    - the “upper class” is growing rapidly and all of the additional wealth created in the country is going there
    - what people are really mad about is not that the “middle class” is suffering, but that they aren’t participating in the growth of wealth as much as they used to

    Of course the headline “Hey! Middle Class wants more of the riches! Not happy just being in the same place they were 25 years ago!” doesn’t engender much sympathy.

    So instead people carefully select data and create headlines like “The Middle Class is eroding!” and “More than ever the rich get richer and the middle class shrinks!”

  • Tcnsa43p

    Stop complaining, pontificating, rehashing the obvious and begin a serious discussion about how to organizing and initiate a true grass roots middle (lower and upper) class 3rd Party. There are so many ways to mandate accountability from our government but if we are expecting anything from either of our current 2 parties or talk show fringe movements, we are simply pushing water up hill. To paraphrase Einstein “insanity is trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results”.

    Personally I am beginning to wonder if you can fool all of the people all of the time. By the way Mr. Lincoln was a product of our last true third party movement.

  • sindicate

    So your solution to this growing dilemma is to raise every child to be a STEM major? Hey if everyone were a scientist or an engineer that would fix our problems right? The whole point of this dilemma is that people are being forced to do things they might not want to do. Twenty years ago I could more than likely get a job right out of college and be able to support myself and family regardless of degree. My grandma received a degree in psychology from a third tier state school, was hired at a break parts company doing typical office work, and worked her way up the corporate ladder to make pretty good money at the end of her career. Hell, in the 1950′s I didn’t even need a college degree. I could more than likely support myself and my family by working honest trade jobs. My grandpa was a carpenter for close to forty years. He’s retired now and has a great home and a lot of land. He actually made more than my grandma and represented the bulk of their income. As you can see, neither my grandma or my grandpa were scientist. They were honest, hard working individuals that just wanted to make a living doing what they wanted to do. In todays world, there lifestyles and levels of success would not be the norm. Although my grandpa might be able to accomplish what he did in todays world (as trade incomes, a lot of the time, depend on location and level of demand), my grandma would most likely be out of luck. The point is college use to be an option, not a necessity. If you’re desire was to get a degree you could, but you didn’t have to. It wasn’t such a big deal because there were plenty of jobs available for people with all kinds of skill sets. In this system, the people who were really passionate about the subjects taught in school went on to get degrees, and the people who weren’t did not. Today, more and more parents are forcing their kids to go to college. Their kids might hate science or math but are coxed into them because they fear being poor. Their childhoods are being becoming shorter and shorter as the building blocks required to “make” one successful in these fields are growing. Watching football on the weekends with your family is a part of a lot of American’s culture. It’s a time to bond, relax, and have fun after a long week. How would you feel If I told you that you were “blaming someone else” for having to work on Christmas if your Christian? I would not expect someone to “make the adjustment” when that adjustment is deeply rooted in their culture. What your telling people to do is to drop a tradition that my have been in their families for generations (I.E. football) and replace it with more work. Take their children’s childhood’s and replace them with more work. When does it end? Are we all just going to become working zombies form the time we leave the womb until the time we die? What are your children going to teach their children? To work every hour of the day every day until the’re dead? That to me is a life not worth living and that is the point in which corporations want the middle class to reach. I do agree with you that these subjects are important and children need to be encouraged to try their best. But it shouldn’t be to the point where if they don’t succeed, or their interests ver off in some other direction, that theirs little to no hope for them to live a middle class lifestyle.

  • USMC0341

    Wow! Calm down. My point was that things change. If I were alive in the 1860s, I could have opened a men’s garment shop or made a good living as a farmer. My father, born 1936, made a good living working in a factory. However, he had enough sense to know that things change. Now, kids need to either learn a trade, or study a useful subject to do well. Period. I went to the military and then went to college using the GI Bill. I understood I had one chance to earn a degree and I knew I did not want to waste it on a degree that would get me know where (English, history, fine arts etc) so I studied engineering. Sure, I would have loved to study history and party all the time. But, I knew I would need a job in the future so I sucked it up and chose a major that was hard, but also yielded a job. 10 years later, I now earn over 150k. Well worth the hard work. The bottom line is you can cry and blame everyone for not being able to get a good job, or you can get re-educated and improve yourself. My brother is 52. He just went to night school in the evening and took up welding. Now he has a new, better paying job. The bottom line is people who can change and adapt will do well. If not, you’ll continue to face hardship. I am married to an Asian. She went to high school and college over there. Let me tell you, if we don’t change ways, and focus on self development rather then self enjoyment, we are going to get our ass kicked in the future. Right now, my opinion of how this country is going is that we are going to be like the folks in the movie Idiocracy!

  • Anonymous

    I might agree with the except for the erosion of income due to inflation over same 25 years.

  • Anonymous

    Catholic schools can be selective with who they take. Public schools are charged with educating everyone…even those that aren’t capable of being educated. The deck is stacked against them.

  • Anonymous

    Clearly we need to throw everyone out of Congress and start over!… well, everyone except MY congressman. He’s OK. I’d vote for him again, except that I don’t vote.

    -Your average Angry Apathetic American

  • Anonymous

    We owe more money than any country on earth. By some measures, that makes us the poorest country on earth. Interest on the debt will inevitably lead to a lower standard of living for everyone. We are starting to see the effects of this now. We can’t invest in infrastructure or education if we use the money to pay interest on the debt.

  • James Briggs

    The Republicans and talk radio have campaigned for lower wages and layoff. Yet you don’t think the policies that are designed to give you less money is the problem it’s the bureaucrats.

  • Anonymous

    Bloated government is sucking the wealth out of and purposely destroying the middle class. They only want two classes, the rich ruling class and the rest of us, the serfs or subjects..

  • Anonymous

    give up the koolaid and wise up, the democrats and big government are sucking the life out of this country. What makes the middle class is entrepreneurial business and independence. Government breeds dependence.

  • Anonymous

    public schools allow disruptive unruly students to destroy the educational opportunities for the rest. Also if we deported illegal aliens and their families we would have more money to spend on American students,and wouldn’t have to lower the bar for non English speaking migrants.

  • Anonymous

    the elites have flooded this country with illegal aliens and flooded the market with cheap labor that has reduced the wages and standard of living for the middle class, all the while raising the tax burden on them by forcing them to subsidize their foreign competition with the benefits the greedy employer now didn’t pay. Secure the border and enforce our laws and institute E-Verify nationwide to stop the illegals from taking American jobs, and stop the government benefits and they would have to go home, which would dry up the labor market and we would see wages rise. These illegals have destroyed good paying meat cutting and construction jobs, while over Twenty Million Americans are unemployed!

  • Anonymous

    There have been TENS of Thousands of STEM workers laid off by the same corporations who are now lobbying congress to give amnesty and increase immigration. Out of control immigration is the problem, along with greedy unAmerican multi national corporations who have no loyalty to this country. We need to stop any AMNESTY, and reduce legal immigration to spouses of Americans until our AMERICAN WORKFORCE IS FULLY EMPLOYED AGAIN. Obama’s policies are anti business, especially small business which is the backbone of our country, we need to change our policies to those favoring SMALL BUSINESS.

  • Anonymous

    My Uncle Aaron just got an awesome 12 month
    old Audi A5 Convertible only from working part time off a home computer… find
    out here F­i­s­c­a­l­P­o­s­t­.­ℂ­o­m

  • James Briggs

    You see that the rich have added to their wealth and the Middle Class got poorer. How do bureaucrats hurt you when things got worse after the tax cuts?Taxes are’t high and you can pay them. But there have been pay cuts and layoffs, Pay cuts and layoffs sponsored by the Republicans. You have been tricked into being jealous of other working people, while you worship the rich like they are gods.

  • Anonymous

    stop drinking the koolaid, the problem is the bloated government and congressmen and bureaucrats that use cronyism and corporate corruption. Republicans? How do you explain Obama enabling GE to make 14 BILLION profits and pay no tax? It’s both parties, it’s the progressive establishment of both parties, it’s socialism/communism and the corruption of those ideologies. We need to return to the constitution and small limited government.

  • Anonymous

    Nobody has cut anything, the government has grown larger and larger and more intrusive. the only thing that has been done is reducing the rate THEY REALLY WANTED the government to grow, NOT CUTS. Tax cuts are proven to increase revenues, and higher taxes promote the rich sheltering their money OFFSHORE. We need fair and honest taxes, a FLAT tax paid by ALL. The democrats were in charge of the economy from the elections of 2006 on, and THEY with the help of their communist comrades in Russia and China crashed the economy. Wake up! Obama and the democrats are the problem, not the solution.

  • James Briggs

    Everyone tells you sweet lies. I tell the truth. The United States is 3.794 million square miles. That’s a lot of land. We have 313.9 million people living in the United States. That’s a lot of people. Saying you want the government to be small is like saying you want the company that sells the most cars in the whole world to be a small company. Mom and pop can’t run General Motors and they can’t run the government either. It takes a lot of people. We are part of a worldwide economy. The only way Americans can have a small government is for people to live off the land and ignore the rest of the world. The American Indians had small government because they lived off the land and ignored the rest of the world. If the people in any country, Americans included, live like the Indians they will end up like the Indians.

  • James Briggs

    All you say about cronyism and corporate greed is true. But it isn’t the fault of government. The fault lies with the politicians who people voted into office. Before those guys were in office we had politicians who helped the Middle Class and we had sixty years of prosperity. Then a new breed of politician came along. They were both Democrat and Republican. They called people communists and socialists. They talked about blacks being criminals. They claimed government workers did nothing and the rest of the work force was lazy. They called Americans moochers during a time when productivity doubled and the American people worked twenty percent more hours a week. Don’t you see that those politicians got the people fighting among themselves. They said they would help business and cut taxes. They did what they said. They cut taxes for the rich and increased it on the middle class. The politicians helped businesses by giving them government money and they of course they received bribes or campaign donations in return.

  • James Briggs

    If you read my previous message you wouldn’t have asked, “How do you explain Obama enabling GE to make 14 BILLION profits and pay no tax?” I already explained that in in my last post. I will quote from my last post. “The reason Obama didn’t do any good is he kept Bush’s tax cuts and his policies.” That’s right it wasn’t bureaucrats that you complained about you companied about the tax cuts.

  • James Briggs

    Look I explained why small government is impossible. You are preaching drivel and you clearly a totally closed down. I spent a lot with you. I would have made more progress if I talked to a tape recorder.

  • James Briggs

    This isn’t for you ChillyinAlaska its for others who might read this. Clilly says absurd things again and again because he has lost his will and his soul. he complains when Obama collects not taxes from GE and then started that the less you charge for taxes the more you will make. He complains that the government doesn’t collect enough taxes and at the same time complains that it collects too mud. Look it up people the government slipped into a deficit the first in the year 2000 the first year Gingrich’s tax cuts went into effect. The simple answer is if cutting taxes always brings in more tax money cutting taxes to zero will bring an infinite amount of tax money. Does anyone think that tax revenues will increase if the government stops collecting taxes? The point is that like everything else taxes have a price point. A price point is where maximum revenues are take in. Let’s say you are selling gum. You find the less you charge the more you sell. The problem is you are collecting less so at a certain point you will earn less. If you charge more you collect more for every pack of gum you sell but you will sell less gum. There is a point the price point were you make the most money.

  • moderator

    James and ChillyinAlaska:

    Clearly you will have to agree to disagree. Please move on.

    Thanks
    Sean @ Moyers

  • moderator

    ChillyinAlaska and James

    Clearly you will have to agree to disagree. Please move on.

    Thanks

    Sean @ Moyers

  • James Briggs

    I agree. Time to move on,

  • James Briggs

    You are correct.

  • James Briggs

    The was a system called the New Deal. Talk radio destroyed it and replaced it with the same system that lead to the Great Depression. The Middle Class has been corrupted with hate so they just keep yelling about the communists. As I see it we live in an insane world where people keep making things worse for themselves and instead of learning they they blame someone else. I see no hope for the short term. As you say the new system is working to a tea.

  • James Briggs

    The two terms are used without much thought by people who cannot or will not think.

  • James Briggs

    The problem with the school isn’t the teachers. They never could prepare a child for this millennium. I taught my child how to read before she want to school. I taught her math concepts so she wouldn’t get lost in math class. She is now one of those genius engineers in Palo Alto. Now a days the rich have loaded the dice against Middle Class kids. If you don’t give you child every advantage they will fall by the way side.

  • James Briggs

    The BUREAUCRATS take all the money. We spend a lot of money on bussing and wacky liberal projects. The liberals work for the rich and try to sabotage the education of Middle Class kids. It is not fair to compare US schools with foreign schools because most of the money is spent out side the classroom.

  • wmyl

    It’s called “the law of rent”. Look it up.

  • hypnotoad72

    Is it Kool aid when companies paid 90% in tax in 1950 yet paid middle class wages… Their tax rate today is 30% and anything more than $10/her will somehow kill the economy even though CO pay is still higher… to say nothing of golden parachutes… or how fewer jobs means less tax revenue for government… did we mention corporate welfare, displaced worker skill rot, and enough other not-koolaid real issues you freely overlook?

  • Anonymous

    Republicans? continue to blame the republicans, but it is the corrupt progressives in both parties who regulate to favor big business and receive bribes in the form of campaign cash and whatever else they can get away with. It’s BIG GOVERNMENT the fault, and BOTH PARTIES ARE AT FAULT, however now the democrat party is totally corrupt and has become the communist party of the USA. No hope to change it, only hope left is to take back the republican party and make it the party of small limited government.

  • Anonymous

    We aren’t living in 1950, and since that time we have lost a lot of our manufacturing and industry to overseas countries, so that is what the high taxes did, drove our industry out of the country. No one paid that exorbitant rate either, they found shelters for their money, and THE GOVERNMENT COLLECTED LESS REVENUE. It has been proven over an over that a lower bearable tax rate produces more revenues and a better economy. We also have a larger tax load now with many local and state taxes, and higher property taxes. When you start your own business YOU can decide what to pay and how much to pay the CEO, however I bet you have never had a business and are probably a moocher complaining you can’t steal enough of someone else’s labor.

  • Anonymous

    Stop the government from printing money out of thin air and devaluing our wealth. When the fed depresses the economy by doing this, the middle class can’t borrow money to purchase more property to protect themselves from inflation, but THE RICH CAN AND DO. That is why the rich get richer, because they can protect themselves from the government taxing by inflation and stealing from the savers, and the middle class is unable to borrow this money and invest it so as to hedge inflation.

  • Anonymous

    Obama and the communists in the democrat party assist GE because they get MSNBC to be their propaganda news outlet. The write law and regulations to see that their cronies don’t pay taxes, only the little people. The democrats aren’t fair, and aren’t for the little guy, they favor their big corporations that have plenty of graft for them. By the way, the democrats have controlled congress starting in 2007 and are who caused this last crash and the depression ever since.

  • James Briggs

    If you were right then the money would be worthless. How about letting me have all of your if it so worthless. The fact that people take the money proves that you have fallen for a silly lie told by the Republicans. After all you saw money being printed on TV and everything you see on TV is true. I bet you beleive in dragons and fairies too. Here is how it works. The money is printed but not used by the government. It is loaned. When the loaned money is paid back the money has been paid for with wealth. Loaned money is used to create wealth. That’s how it works. That is why people take money. Because they can buy things with it and they can buy things with it because people borrow money and use it to make things that people want. Unlike the big lies that Republicans tell US currency is and has the strongest currency in the world.

  • James Briggs

    That is ludicrous. If you were right then if we lower the tax rate to zero the government would collect and infinite amount of tax revenue. The fact is their is a price point for taxes like everything else. At the price point raising the tax rate will hurt the economy and lowering the tax rate will hurt the economy. These are the facts. In the 20 the size of government was cut in half and taxes were cut in half and we ended up in the great depression. When the tax rate was at 90% for the highest bracket in the 50s the US economy grew more than any country grew in history. As the US cut taxes the US economy lost ground. When Clinton raised taxes we had full employment and a balanced budget. When the Republicans cut taxes under Bush we slipped back into debt and we ended up losing 800,000 jobs a month. The reason that Obama hasn’t pulled the economy back to were it should be is the tax cuts are still in effect.

  • James Briggs

    You repeat the same absurdities that you hear on talk radio without thinking. You don’t even know what Communism or socialism is but if Obama was a communist then you wouldn’t own your own home, work for a private company and all the stores would be government owned. Asking for small government is the same as saying you want the company that sells more cars then any other company in the world to be a small company. GM is big for a reason. There are no successful small governments of big countries. The Indians had a small government and look what happened to them. Afghanistan has a small government and the government controls only part of one city. The rest of the country is ruled by war lords and the Taliban. May be that’s what you want. The government would control part of Washington DC and the rest of the country would be to be under the control of War Lords or right wing religious fanatics. You think you have no freedom now just wait until the religious fanatics see you trying to fly a kite.

  • Anonymous

    you repeat the same leftist talking points like a parrot. Your points have been proven wrong over and over. You just want to destroy the most successful country the world has ever known, and the freedom and liberty of it’s citizens, to be ruled by a feudal system. you are too stupid to debate with.

  • Anonymous

    Why are you using the term “progressives” — is that a term befitting the types of politicians you are describing? I don’t think so.

    The words “Democrat” and “Republican” are synonyms. Neither is what I can term a “progressive” in the sense that gives THAT word respect.

  • Anonymous

    “The Indians had a small government and look what happened to them.”

    Very interesting and poignant observation. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    If success is only possible with small government, yet we have a bloated government according to you, then why are you saying we are a successful country, given the bloated government (again, according to you)?

    I am not avering that the US is successful or not. I am only picking out the terms of your own inconsistent argument. Please take no offense; it is simply that I don’t follow your logic.

  • Anonymous

    “this was caused by Republicans…” with just an eensy, weensy bit of complicity, cooperation, and hypocrisy by the Democrats.

    I mean, you are right. But you are leaving out this important point.

  • Anonymous

    It is ludicrous to compare the limits on our government by the CONSTITUTION to the unorganized indian tribes. We were very successful as a country when we lived within the limits of the constitution, and have gone downhill with this unconstitutional growth mostly done after WWII. It’s amazing we didn’t have any income tax until after 1913 and had great prosperity before. Seems to me, that you and others think a smaller government means no government, which isn’t so, however there is no authority in the constitution for much of this growth of government agencies, starting after the great depression, and I think our country would be much better off and more prosperous if these agencies would be abolished and these powers returned to the states as the CONSTITUTION plainly states in the 10th Amendment.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t follow you. I didn’t say anything in THIS thread about indian tribes; I think you are referencing a different thread here.

    My question (please re-read) was

    “If success is only possible with small government, yet we have a bloated government according to you, then why are you saying we are a successful country, given the bloated government (again, according to you)?”

    (You had just remarked that the US was a successful country.)

  • James Briggs

    Among the great absurdities that the ditto heads spout the greatest is that others want to change things make things worse. They don’t know about the Reagan Revolution or Gingrich’s contract with Americas. They never heard of Roosevelt or Kennedy. They think that the Republicans have been running the country since the caveman and now Liberals want to change things when everything is going great. Then they go back and complain how bad things are. Of course they use youtube as your primary source of information. It like trying to talk with someone who just watches cartoons. The people who get their information from youtube beleive that Darth Vader alive and running the Democratic National Committee. Their only other debating point is “you are a communist shut up.”

  • Anonymous

    All we have to do change the definition of Middle Class and, boom – Middle Class saved!

    For example: anybody who owns a TV, a car less than 15 years old, at least one Ramen noodle-capable pot, and earns, say, $10,6000/year, (about what Mitt Romney ‘earns’ per hour, whether he’s employed or not,) is now entry-level Middle Class.

    See? The Middle Class isn’t shrinking – it just grew by another 30 million Americans or so…

  • Anonymous

    Ooh. Cool trick. I like that.

    You are trying to ingratiate yourself into a government statistician job, aren’t you?