Your Take: Calling All Middle Class Americans...

Friday, September 24, 2010 - 10:45 AM

I used to think we were middle class, but after being laid off, I feel more like we've fallen through the cracks. We, the working-, nonworking-, and barely working-poor are pawns, but have no real value to the politicians - after all, we don't have enough to donate to the war chests. — Lyndon Drees (via Facebook)

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My husband and I both have our jobs – though mine has been seriously hacked at lately, via salary and benefit deductions – and with a total of 3 kids between us. Second marriage for both. We're doing OK. We can afford the occasional dinner out, vacation, that kind of thing, but I really feel that we are a job loss or catastrophic illness away from disaster. It used to be that people were described as being solidly middle class and, you know, these days there's really nothing solid about it. That unpredictable, precarious house of cards feeling is really how I define middle class today.

—Janice Bissell (via Facebook)

"IF" working hard resulted in a 'good and prosperous' life I would have a decent retirement to look forward to and a fulfilled feeling in my soul..
"IF" I am lucky I will raise myself out of the poverty level I've been in for years and attain the title of "working class poor." Livin' the dream, baby: livin' the dream. 

—Kris, on Facebook

Working the bankruptcy field - there is no middle class. The people who consider themselves middle class are making well over $100K a year, but the ones who truly seem to embody the lifestyle of the middle class make anywhere from $40k-$60k. Money and class are in the eye of the beholder. I imagine the politicians consider the middle class anyone with enough money to make a donation ... 

—Johnnie Sue, on Facebook

Lots of luck in recording a vanishing species. 

—New York, via text message

I make $600 per month helping to advertise for my brother's cleaning business. My rent is $400. Electric is $60. Meds are $40.00. Food stamps, plus $100 equals SUSTENANCE. So, no, I don't think I'm middle class.

—Gary Fowler in Chandler, Okla. (via text message)

Yes, I think my family is a great example of middle class. I make about $60,000 a year, have a mortgage, two car notes, and credit card debt. 

—Listener in Oklahoma City (via text message)

No. I have been unemployed for more than six months and I'm $100,000 in debt.

—Listener in Michigan (via text message)

No. I am a single mother without a degree. I make middle class money and live a middle class life, but I have an unusual lifestyle.

—Listener in Florida (via text message)

We are middle class. We are both working professionals, an engineer and a veterinarian, with our first child and a growing family. We are homeowners and politically active and we associate with a wide spectrum of other middle class people, from the unemployed to the upper middle.

—Listener in Massachusetts (via text message)

My wife and I are white professionals. We've raised 5 boys – who are Mexican, black, Puerto Rican – from New York City public housing, who ended up moving in with us and all went off to college. Some of them are graduating now and can't find jobs because there just aren't jobs out there. We worked with them for 12 years or 16 years, actually, saying why it was so important to get a good education in America. I'd love the president to explain to me why that's the case now, and what my kids' future is going to be. 

—Michael 

My wife and I might be representative of a certain type of middle class American. We live in Manhattan, my wife's a research physician in lupus. I am a litigator, a lawyer, and between the two of us we have 2 kids, trying to make it in Manhattan and, while we may earn more than the average American does, in New York it's still tight to make ends meet and we'd like to talk to the President about what exactly makes it so hard to live in New York or to live in the U.S. right now as a professional in expensive times and high taxes.

Eric

I'm a class-straddler. I grew up in a family struggling to make ends meet and only one parent working consistently. We lived in a poor, rural community in North Florida. I am now finally an official member of the middle class. I am a NYC public school teacher and since I started teaching three years ago, I have jumped into a the middle class. But, inside, I still feel like I am a member of the struggling class working very hard to make ends meet and being incredibly proud when a member of our family graduates from college (high school, even). When money and education becomes a constant - a given, really - then I think a person can say they are truly a member of the middle class. 

—Christine Magee, via Facebook

My husband and I are grad students who, technically, probably live under the poverty level. There are people who are lower class than us by appearance, but probably have more money than we do; however, we were raised middle class, and, therefore, look and act middle class, so we are still considered middle class. We were born into it making it not just an economic distinction but something beyond that. It's a caste system in some respects. 

—Beth, via Facebook

"Middle Class" is a free floating state that is almost always connected to another concept called upward mobility. We feel comfort in the middle of an economy. This is when you are most likely able to share common economic traits. If a person is at poverty level but has a "wealthy" mind he/she will not remain in poverty. They also probably will not become wealthy either but it's quite possible that they can become a member of the middle class. We need it even if it is not a true representation of our median income citizens' true standard of living. You see Middle Class is a form of hope. The simple hope to attain a middle spot in our society. Most of us don't need to be at the top to find happiness. I am the only current member of the Middle class in my family at this time so it's lonely at the Middle too. -Listener from Detroit Mi.

Don't qualify. I'm single and retired.

—Allan in Woodsocket, RI (via text message)

When in college many years ago (the 1970's), the social-economic definitions included a breakout of the Upper/Middle & Lower classes into 3 sub categories with each having an upper/middle & lower. Before taking that class I would have assumed that I was Middle Class after I learned that by the definitions given then that I was more of an Upper-Lower Class or perhaps Middle-Lower Class. With the wage stagnation of the last 30+years. I believe that the Middle Class has all but vanished in a return to the Gilded Age of the 1890's. There are those that have and the rest are the Working Class if they in fact can find a job at all. The Robber Barons have pretty much won. 

—Kevin, on Facebook

Yes, I do consider myself a member of the "middle class". I have also been very critical of our class-members over the past many months. It seems to me that many of our members are very quick to spend money, lose focus, and blame the ills of the country on those more and less economically fortunate than themselves (the "the banks made me do it" and the "my tax money for handouts" arguments; I hear them almost every day). And yet, it is anethema to criticize the middle class in the country. Despite our borrowing and overspending we continue to look elsewhere for the source of our problems. We refuse to except responsibility for our overconsumption and undereducation; our overall lack of discipline; our lack of political understanding and awareness; our general intolerance for things that and persons whom are different or foreign. When, as a class, do we ... accept responbility for our current trevail? I, for one, am sick of "the banks and the bums" excuses.

—Jeremy, via Facebook

I guess this depends on the definition of middle class. For reference I looked up the mean and median US incomes from the Census - which were: median of $45K and mean of $60.5K. Also it appears many split the middle class into lower middle class and upper middle class...

—Angela, via Facebook

Regretfully most middle and lower middleclass spend money like they're upper or at least upper middle. You can kill yourself working, but if you never learn to save and live below your means, you'll never climb out of the lower middle class or working class poor. I know they tell us to spend spend spend for America but we need some of the old values back. If you're not rich, don't try to spend like you are. 

—Lorraine, on Facebook

Oh Lorraine, you're so cute. How quaint of you to assume that middle and lower class people just can't quite escape the spending...Maybe you are referring to specific people in your life? Your children, etc...? It seems to me you are referring to a specific population who were raised with money and privilege, and of course, are now struggling like the rest of us, but are accustomed to a certain standard of living... This is not the reality for many, (most), people. Beware of blanket statements...

—Rachel, via Facebook

I don't have health insurance (was on husband's and he recently got laid off, I am a freelance worker) and when we looked into purchasing a plan it became very clear, very quick that we didn't qualify b/c I make enough to keep us out of many government subsidized plans, but we certainly don't make enough to afford a typical "retail" plan...that was my defining middle class moment.

—Katy, via Facebook

I am in the middle class I make nearly 81,000 dollars a year. So I consider that to be what puts me there.

—Don in Queens, NY, via phone.

Middle class are mortgage owners that's pretty much it.

—Dan Fisher, Vermont, via phone

We joined the middle class when in 1988 we bought our first microwave. My wife and I looked at each other and said you know we joined the middle class now, and to tell you truth, we still have the same microwave so we're still in the middle class.

—Yamborday, Yorktown, Va., via phone

I think that a lot of our problems for the middle class is we're spending our money on a lot of things that we didn't use to: cable TV, $150 a month, Apple telephone $100 a month. There's a lot of our investment and our wealth going down the drain, because there are things that we really don't need.

—Jimmy Johnson, Fort Worth Tex., via phone

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Comments [8]

Sara from Boston

My partner and I (and most of our friends) are what we call "artist class." This has some markers of middle class and even upper class lifestyles, but most of us are earning incomes barely above poverty level. Our paying jobs are often in non-profit organizations focused on art or philanthropy which require advanced skills and/or education levels. These jobs afford us a certain amount of prestige (as do our non-paying careers as artists) and may come with perks, like discount tickets to cultural events and institutions. We are a two-car family (one new, and one junker), have a nice rental apartment because we make or barter furniture and eat well because we grow and cook our food. But we have no insurance, very little savings and lots of education debt.

Sep. 29 2010 10:30 AM
Celia from Worcester, Ma.

I joke that my husband and I are "downwardly mobile." He's a MSW social worker who has been laid off twice during economic downturns since we married in '85. I've worked various jobs, and haven't yet earned a bachelors degree. Both working right now, thank God! We have 2 children in college. Most people we know work too many hours, health insurance is a big issue, and there are NO savings. Most are a health problem or lay off away from bankruptcy, foreclosure, etc. I think the gap between the wealthiest Americans and other Americans is unconscionable.

Sep. 28 2010 09:27 AM
Alice from Staten Island, NY

"Middle class" seems to be such an elastic term nowadays. Both my husband and I have graduate degrees, but our annual income is now way below average for our area. This is due to an illness that kept me out of work for over a year, and the current lack of opportunities in my profession. I have been forced to take a secretarial job at $17,000 less than my previous income. My husband's work is receiving less and less funding. My ego tells me I'm still "middle class," but my current lifestyle tells me otherwise.

Sep. 27 2010 01:41 PM
Clinton from Olympia, WA

My wife and I make around 130k, which we reduce to about 110k through deferred tax retirement savings. We have more than enough money. We certainly aren't in a really low cost area (probably moderate - average house costs 300 - 400k). I think you people probably need to review your priorities, stop buying things you don't need, and put your extra money into savings for that rainy day.

Sep. 27 2010 08:44 AM
Paul from New Jersey

I think middle class is very geography specific. I am an engineer with a Masters degree making $85k, and in many parts of the country I think I would feel very upper class. However, I grew up in a NJ suburb of NYC, spent 5 years outside DC, and have recently moved back to NJ. I have never lived in a place where $85k makes you feel upper class - in high cost areas, $85k feels middle class. Some of your guests have used national median income as a gauge for middle class, but I disagree. When housing costs are supposed to be somewhere between a quarter and a third of your income, the difference between NY area housing costs and midwest housing costs make a HUGE difference in the definition of middle class.

Sep. 27 2010 07:49 AM
Patricia from NYC

My husband and I make over $120K a year, yet we feel like we're struggling. In most part of our own doing, not saving when we should have. My small business slowed down tremendously, add to that some unexpected medical bills lead to our downturn. But we should have saved when things were good. Our house in now in foreclosure and Wells Fargo is willing to take $120K less (for a short sale) on our house instead of modifying our loan. If they'd lowered it half that amount we could have afforded to stay in our home.

Sep. 27 2010 07:15 AM
E Castro

"Middle Class" is a free floating state that is almost always connected to another concept called upward mobility. We feel comfort in the middle of an economy. This is when you are most likley able to share common economic traits. If a person is at poverty level but has a "wealthy" mind he/she will not remain in poverty. They also probably will not become wealthy either but it's quite possible that they can become a member of the middle class. We need it even if it is not a true representation of our median income citizens true standard of living. You see Middle Class is a form of hope. The simple hope to attain a middle spot in our society. Most of us don't need th be at the top to find happiness. I am the only current member of the Middle class in my family at this time so it's lonely at the Middle too. Detroit Mi.

Sep. 25 2010 12:29 AM
drew coburn from new york

i cringed when you mentioned the song compilation for the miners this morning

at some level, i had the experience that their plight - the lives that once were in question - we're being put in the context of a 'game' on a radio show

do you guys reality check your material in advance of air?

Sep. 24 2010 02:08 PM

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