|St. Louis Post-Dispatch|
What does come as a surprise is what politicians regard as middle income.
On Friday, Republican presidential nominee
That's about where President
A better place to begin the discussion is at true middle income, where half earn more and half earn less.
Economists were most surprised by the news in the report that poverty stayed relatively the same. In 2010, 15.1 percent of the nation's population was in poverty, and last year it was 15 percent, with 46.2 million people at the poverty level.
Poverty is described by the
Median household income was 8 percent lower than in 2007, which is designated as the year before the recession took hold. The decline from 2010 to 2011 was 1.5 percent, which was the fourth straight year of lower income for the middle class.
The high point for the dead-middle of the middle class was 1999, when median income reached
The Census data confirmed that income inequality in
The bottom 20 percent? They got 3.2 percent of all household income in 2011.
The income share for the top 5 percent rose 4.9 percent to 22.3 percent of the whole enchilada. Income for that group starts at
The wealthiest 25 percent of taxpayers take home 73.4 percent of all household income. Everyone else splits the remaining 26.6 percent.
The income gap has widened dramatically, fueled by gains at the top and declines in the middle. The bottom has stayed about even. It's the middle class that's losing ground.
It's even worse for us in
The median household income in
The loss of good-paying, middle-income jobs is largely responsible for the regional downturn, according to economists. Those jobs, mostly in the manufacturing sector, have been offshored or computerized or killed by the recession. Some have been restored, but at lower pay levels.
Consider the GM plant in
None of this has happened by accident. It is the product of 30 years of concerted effort to build a winner-take-more economy. Unions have been destroyed. The financial sector has become omnivorous. In the absence of a national industrial policy, the promise of globalization was not kept -- too few "knowledge economy" jobs came along to replace the manufacturing jobs that were lost.
The housing and tech bubbles disguised the damage for a while, but the recession revealed that the middle class had been hollowed out. This nation cannot prosper without a vital, vibrant middle class. The first place to start rebuilding is to define it correctly. And it's not
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