Going, going …
Despite years of claiming economic improvement, the Obama Administration is overseeing yet another trend that indicates the growing poverty and division of America. According to a newly released Pew Research study, for the first time in 40 years, the middle class is no longer a majority in this country. The study found that slightly less than 50 percent of households were in the middle class, virtually the same as the combined lower and upper classes.
By one reading, the study could be sifted as good news because the number of adults living in upper class homes increased by half between 1971 and 2015, from 14 percent to 21 percent. Low-income homes increased from 25 percent to 29 percent in the same time period, with the middle class shrinking from 61 percent to 50 percent.
Median incomes across the board have increased since 1970, but middle- and lower-income families’ increases have lagged upper-income increases. Perhaps more significantly, upper-income families now have a much larger share of the overall economy than in 1970, up to 49 percent of aggregate household income in 2014 from 29 percent in 1970.
Median income from 1970 to 2014 grew 47 percent for upper-income families, 34 percent for middle-income families, and 28 percent for low-income families. Inflation during that same time period, according to the Consumer Price Index, has been approximately 518 percent. The total cost of living has gone up nearly 624 percent, according to figures from the American Institute for Economic Research.
While the current administration isn’t — for once — the origin of the problem, the numbers underscore that the economic improvement touted by the Obama White House for the past nearly seven years just isn’t happening for most of America. The Pew study also points out that the highest rates of growth among economic classes happened on the edges of the economy, farthest from the center, among the poorest and the wealthiest, demonstrating the growing deep division among Americans economically speaking.
Median incomes measured since 2000 have actually declined a bit for all economic classes, by $6,144 per upper-income household, by $3,427 for middle-class families, and $2,422 for lower-income families.
Mash all these numbers together and it means that most American families including the upper crust have seen the value of their money decline by somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 percent since 1970, despite actual dollar gains in income.
This particular problem may not be Obama’s fault, but he has done nothing to reverse or even slow the trends. Almost seven years in, “Hope and Change” is just as empty a slogan as when it was first uttered on the campaign trail.