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Any of us who are self-aware enough to admit we’re lower class are goddamn tired of everyone in the country claiming to be middle class. A 2008 Pew Poll showed that 40% of Americans that make less than $20,000 a year, who are in poverty, claimed to be middle class. The same poll showed that one-third of people that make over $150,000 a year claim to be middle class (only 13% of the country makes over 100K). These people are not middle class. If you look at the IRS’ numbers, like I did, 57% of the country that filed last year makes less than $40,000 a year.

I would consider the lower end of middle class to be in the late 30K to mid 40K range. To me, that sounds like a lot of money, but to a lot of people it’s lower middle class. Therefore, a whole lot of people are not middle class. So why does everyone and their brother feel a need to lie?

I have the answer, you unsuspecting readers. There is a stigma in favor of being middle class in this country, because it used to be normal to be middle class. In 1969, 53% of Americans were middle class, according to the Census Bureau. Many studies put the number in the middle class during that time at least 10 points higher. We’re all aware that income inequality is growing, but the idea in people’s head that they’re still middle class has not changed.

We live in a country stuck on the income ideas of our parents, and in a way the picture that is painted is becoming a somewhat more accurate representation of what is going to happen. Lower class people are considered to be, by many, people that are homeless or living in desperate conditions. Upper class people in America are considered to be those living in mansions. Everyone in between is considered “middle class,” but the vast majority of those people would be in what is defined as “lower middle class,” by these standards, which is actually quite close to the poverty line. Lower middle class is really just lower class, if you translate this stinted ideology into realistic terms. The more the gap increases, the closer most of those left in the actual middle class get to becoming part of the desperate many.

No one wants to be defined as living in desperate conditions and no one wants to be considered very wealthy, because both of these ideas put you in a place that is far away from what you have grown up to consider “normal.” The problem ends up being that too many of us end up closer to the desperate side of things and aren’t willing to admit it. The longer we wait to admit this, the easier it becomes for those taking advantage at the top to justify their actions by claiming most people are still middle class.

I grew up in a lower class family. My father would claim, and still does today, that we were lower middle class. My father probably made about $25,000 a year for much of that time, with my sister, brother, mother and I to support. We lived like we were middle class too, constantly being evicted from houses we were renting that presented the image of what my father though he was, that which he was not. This is the case for many Americans.

With the boom of credit cards, many of us rack up huge amounts of debt presenting images like this. If you don’t have a big screen TV and a car that was purchased in the last five years, you’re suddenly an ingrate. Well, my friends, it is time to get over it. In 2010, it was found that each American owes an average of about $45,000 in personal debt. This hardly even goes into the intense amount of debt people go into to go to schools that will give them a fancier piece of paper than another school. Americans are desperate to look attractive on paper.

I’m done with it. I am lower class and have learned a lot from being lower class. The day I become upper class, or even middle class, I will admit to that too, being proud that I was able to achieve more than what I grew up with. My father worked hard and provided for a family, but we were lower class. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there is something very wrong with a society that is unwilling to be honest about where it actually stands when the bills come to be paid.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I wouldn't mind being considered wealthy. (6+ / 0-)

    I realize there might be some shame involved, but I'm willing to give it a shot. :)

    The Baptist Death Ray (wrightc [at] eviscerati [dot] org) "We are all born originals -- why is it so many of us die copies?"
    - Edward Young

    by The Baptist Death Ray on Thu Jan 02, 2014 at 08:41:50 PM PST

  •  The Term "Middle Class" has Been Propaganda Here (22+ / 0-)

    since the Depression or post WW2 era, I'm pretty sure.

    The middle class originally meant the small demographic "in the middle" between the rich, whose assets provided their income obviating the need to work, and the working classes. The middle class were professionals, upper end business owners and management, and bureaucrats. Ebeneezer Scrooge was middle class. He wasn't rich, he had to earn a living. But he wasn't poor or working class because he had comforts and opportunity.

    In the mid 20th century here and elsewhere around the world, severe economic constraints were imposed on the rich and their enterprises, and supports for the poor and working classes enacted, and brought a middle class lifestyle to middle income earners: upward mobility, opportunity for education and leisure and travel, and a secure old age, and the prospect of leaving an inheritance and a higher standard of living to our children.

    Some time in there in the US we began hyping the working classes who had just acquired middle class opportunity as middle class themselves.

    If the rich hadn't taken back their country beginning in the 1970's, it would've been accurate, but by the mid 1980's the idea of calling the working classes "middle" class was already a cruel propaganda hoax.

    I'm near middle income. My doctor is middle class.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Jan 02, 2014 at 08:54:19 PM PST

  •  I'd like to suggest that (18+ / 0-)

    in between lower class and middle class, there's the working class.  We are the people who work for a living and are getting by. We own homes, but in neighborhoods outside the downtown area. We buy pre-owned or off-lease cars on credit. We vacation, sometimes, for a week in the summer. Many of us have health insurance through our employers. We carry balances on credit cards. We would be screwed if we lost our jobs. Our kids go to public school. We don't typically have investments outside of our retirement plans. We are teachers, nurses, union laborers.

    •  You're describing the middle (7+ / 0-)

      class. Combined family incomes of $50-$100K. Once you start making much more than that (unless you live in Manhattan or San Francisco) you are in the realm of well-off - the top 10% or so. The 1% makes $300,000 or more. Those folks drive nice cars, vacation well, send their kids to private schools, and have an investment portfolio. But they have to work. Then there's the top 0.1% - the super wealthy. They don't have to work.

  •  I grew up--financially speaking--in what one (5+ / 0-)

    would call "upper middle-class".

    Now I'm broke.

    And I always paid my taxes.

    "Class" is something, I thought, my people emigrated to this country to escape. Sadly, they found no matter how successful they were, there would be someone here ready to put them in their place.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Thu Jan 02, 2014 at 09:25:48 PM PST

    •  And what makes it especially painful: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass
      no matter how successful they were, there would be someone here ready to put them in their place.
      Too often that "someone" was a person with a similar background who was eager to maintain a safe distance from that background.

      You know.  Like Paul LePlague.

  •  Sorry, guys, most of us are WORKING CLASS. (13+ / 0-)

    We may be poor working class or moneyed working class, but most of us are still wage earners. (And that includes the "middle class.")

    Then there are those that are "owning class," who employ wage earners and call the shots.

    "Lower class" is a put-down, I think. To own the word "low" or "lower" is not good for any of us. They're working class too, even though they may need two or three jobs to survive.  

    "The soil under the grass is dreaming of a young forest, and under the pavement the soil is dreaming of grass."--Wendell Berry

    by Wildthumb on Thu Jan 02, 2014 at 10:07:08 PM PST

  •  One of the more interesting moments in college (11+ / 0-)

    was my Intro to Sociology class.  Several hundred students in a room, and the first day the prof asks, "Please raise your hand if you're middle class."

    Every single student raises their hands.  The prof comments, "One of you is here because your father gave the school a building, and several of you are here on full scholarships.  Yet you all identify yourself as middle class because there's too much stigma in saying you're lower or upper class."

    •  Interesting, (0+ / 0-)

      Except that some of us were raised that talking about money was rude. Ask me what I paid for my car, my house, my dress or my pencil, and you'll get the same answer: none of your darn business. And I'll never ask you what you make for a living, whether you bought your car new or used or what you pay in rent or for your mortgage.

      It's tacky. It's rude. It's inappropriate between family, friends and strangers in 97% of situations (occasionally, a situation arises where it makes sense -- like when my neighbor asks me how much I paid to get my roof replaced because she needs to have hers done too and has no idea what a fair price would be ).

      So I don't care where I've been on the spectrum (and I've bounced around quite a bit), I would never answer anything but "middle." It's just a nicer way than saying "go away."

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Fri Jan 03, 2014 at 12:00:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What would you define (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    denise b, tardis10

    as middle class?

    To be first in the soil, which erupts in the coil, of trees veins and grasses all brought to a boil. -- The Maxx

    by notrouble on Thu Jan 02, 2014 at 11:35:35 PM PST

  •  That's true for almost any country. I've seen (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JBL55, grover

    surveys that show that in some countries 80-90% of people call themselves middle class.

  •  Where Have you Gone, Utah Phillips? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, unfangus, JBL55, tardis10

    "Now I'm finding out there's just one kind of war,
    It's the one going on 'tween the rich and the poor.
    Don't know a lot about what you'd call class
    But the upper and middle can all kiss my ass. "

    Utah Phillips, Larimer Street

    For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    by Grey Fedora on Fri Jan 03, 2014 at 02:23:05 AM PST

  •  The test for middle class: Do you have sufficient (0+ / 0-)

    assets that you could go without a job for a year and not be financially ruined?
       If you aren't a business owner, physician, attorney, tenured university professor, or other professional who is more or less insulated against unemployment, you aren't middle class.
       You are working class.

    •  Can you afford (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sfbob

      a new hot water heater, tires, a suit for a funeral, ... without going into debt?

      This land is your land and this land is my land, sure, but the world is run by those that never listen to music anyway. ~ Bob Dylan ~

      by NCTim on Fri Jan 03, 2014 at 07:29:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  what if I answer yes to the first question (0+ / 0-)

      but don't fit the description of your second paragraph?

      Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

      by AaronInSanDiego on Fri Jan 03, 2014 at 08:54:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Part of this is lifestyle choices though. (0+ / 0-)

      There are plenty of people bringing down $2M+ who could  be insulated against a year's loss of wages, but they've bought the biggest and best of everything and not saved and invested appropriately.

      And there are folks who make $150k but still live in modest homes, take modest vacations, drive modest cars, but save a lot and invest wisely who could manage a year without income.

      For many people, larger income simply means larger outflow. Many of the things the rich buy are assets with high maintenace costs, depreciable assets  or assets that are hard to move (it's far easier to sell an entry-level home than a vacation home in the mountains or a mansion).

      So it just depends....

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Fri Jan 03, 2014 at 11:48:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  By "personal debt" ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob, grover

    ... does that include all debt, or just unsecured debt?

    •  The article includes all debt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JBL55

      Including mortgage debt. So a family of four owes approx $190k, which doesn't sound so terrible to me, except, of course, many aren't sitting in homes they own, and  many are sitting in homes that are much more expensive. Hopefully, by now, those that were deeply under water are almost in the black at least.

      © grover


      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Fri Jan 03, 2014 at 12:07:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  These days there is hardly anyone left in the (0+ / 0-)

    "middle class"....they are either rich or one step from poverty or poor...with poor being the norm these days....

  •  deep denial (0+ / 0-)

    Most Americans are in deep denial as to their income status. this is just a reflection of the culture of an empire denying their decline.

    Without printed and borrowed money America would be very close to third world status.

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