For many years, an integral part of the American dream has involved making it to the middle class. We associate the phrase with steady, secure work, home ownership and providing for a comfortable — if not lavish — lifestyle for our family. But has middle class America fundamentally changed since the Great Recession hit? Do people that once saw themselves as solidly middle class see themselves differently now?
We take you on a journey on what the middle class has given this nation.
Edward Wolff, professor of economics at New York University, breaks down some of the numbers behind what defines America's middle class. He explains why the middle class was hit hardest by the economic crisis and what recovery will look like for this sector of society moving forward.
"Whichever spin you prefer, the result is the same. America's middle class made the country powerful and prosperous," says Celeste Headlee. Celeste explores the contributions of the middle class to American society.
Takeaway listener Lyndon Dees joins us to discuss life in the middle class. Dees had worked at the same consulting firm in Tulsa, Oklahoma for many years when the recession hit. He was laid off just as the recession officially went into recovery in August of 2009. Since then he's seen his family's security dwindle and his perception of the very meaning of 'middle class' change. Rochelle James says that while she has slowly risen into the middle class, from being on public assistance, she has to hustle hard to remain in middle class America. The major difference between her experience of the middle class and just barely surviving is the level of independence she feels while taking care of her family.
The President of the United States has almost always had to seem as if he's the ultimate protector of the middle class. So how is President Obama doing? Takeaway contributor Beth Kobliner says that while Obama's policies are helping the middle class but he clearly needs work on staying on message.
When did the notion of the middle class really take shape in America? Gordon Wood, History Professor at Brown University and author of the book "Radicalism of the American Revolution," says our middle class roots are positively based in our revolutionary roots.