by Wolf Richter
It’s been an unrelenting process. Survey after survey—most recently “The Lost Decade of the Middle Class“—has shown that wages haven’t kept up with inflation since the wage peak in 2000. Periods when real wages rose, for example during the deflationary stretch between March and October 2009, a godsend for struggling workers, were stepped out by the Fed like nasty brushfires. So, families ended up making less at the end of the decade than at the beginning, a phenomenon not seen in the US since World War II. And the middle-income tier actually shrank in size—the process of hollowing out the American middle class.
But there is a new phenomenon: a ballooning lower class. It now engulfs 32% of all adults. In America! Where lower class is the unmentionable class, the class that doesn’t exist, just like the upper class doesn’t exist, but for different reasons.
Political candidates trip all over each other to promise debt-funded goodies and tax cuts—real or imaginary—to the “middle class.” They all claim that a thriving middle class is the foundation of the American economy. The middle class rules! “Everyone is in the middle class,” I was told in high school by the dad of the chick I was dating. That was in the seventies. Now 32% of all American adults find themselves in the unmentionable lower class, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. Up from 25% in 2008. And none of the presidential candidates has even mentioned them.
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