Who Is The Middle Class


by Paul Balles


It’s sad that Barak Obama had to be the first black to be elected president.

Ever since he got into office, Obama has been leaning over backward to avoid being patronising, or looking like it, to African Americans.

Why has the term “middle class” become the talking point about those the president wants to help?

The middle class supplies jobs and they fill jobs according to the rhetoric. The middle class deserves the tax breaks and need good educations at reasonable prices.

You never hear anything about a lower class; but how can there be a middle class without a lower class?

If the words “middle class” have any meaning, it resides somewhere between lower class and upper class, but you don’t hear references to the lower and upper classes.

T.H.C. Stevenson identified the middle class as that “falling between the upper class and the working class. Included as belonging to the middle class are professionals, managers, and senior civil servants.”

How do you know which class you belong to? Argues Stevenson, “The chief defining characteristic of membership in the middle class is possession of significant human capital.”

Here the lower class has been referred to as the working class. This has led sociologists and others to designating an upper middle class and a lower middle class. The reason can be discerned from a comment made by Dante Chinni:

“Everyone wants to believe they are middle class…But this eagerness…has led the definition to be stretched like a bungee cord — used to defend/attack/describe everything…The Drum Major Institute…places the range for middle class at individuals making between $25,000 and $100,000 a year.”

This has put one group of people Obama would like to help clearly in the lower class–not a lower middle class—but a lower class, though he avoided reference to the class level earning less than $25,000 as lower class.

Since college education is one of the main indicators of middle-class status, the importance that Obama attached to education is understandable.

Obama wanted to raise the lower class to the middle class, but since the lower class is mainly African Americans, Obama has never publicly said his goal was to raise people of colour to a higher class.

Writing in the National Journal, staff reporter Sophie Quinton remarked “Researchers cite a steady job and the ability to save for retirement, afford a home, and educate one’s children as components of what it means to be middle class.”

The headline for Quinton’s article reads “For Obama and Romney, ‘Middle Class’ Means Pretty Much Everyone.”

When Romney said “I will not, under any circumstances, increase taxes for the middle class,” who was he talking about?

Who was Obama referring to when promising “I want to give middle class families and folks who are striving to get into the middle class some relief?”

Global Post senior correspondent Jean MacKenzie observed, “The players in this election invoke the ‘middle class’ constantly, vowing to protect it, to save it, to rebuild it.”

On one occasion, Romney said middle income (not class) fell between $100,000 and $150,000 On another, he defined middle class as middle income between $200,000 to $250,000 and less.

With proposals that preserve tax cuts for those earning less than $250,000, Obama effectively defined the middle class all the way up into the mid-$200,000s.

Both candidates have been talking about income and class, though the words they have used to describe them have been designed to confuse the US electorate.

Hopefully, Obama will be clearer as he embarks on his second term in office.


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