What Makes the Middle Class?
Did you happen to notice how, at both conventions, speaker after speaker talked about how much the party’s candidate would do for “the middle class”? “Unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class,” Mitt Romney said. President Obama promised “a future where we reduce our deficit without sticking it to the middle class.”
What exactly do Americans mean when they call themselves middle class? Just this: neither rich nor poor. That’s why middle class Americans support tax hikes for the rich. If they’re for the rich, I won’t have to pay them. That’s also why middle class Americans are suspicious of government programs to help the poor. If they’re for the poor, they won’t do me any good (and I may have to pay for them).
The Pew poll asked Americans what it takes to be in the middle class today. The top answer by far: a secure job. That’s why jobs are the number one issue this year. Without a secure job, you can’t be in the middle class. Fewer than half of Americans now say you have to own your own home to be in the middle class. The figure was much higher (70%) in 1991, when a similar question was asked. The collapse of home prices since 2006 has had a devastating impact. Owning a home is no longer seen as a guarantee of security.
Read more in Bill Schneider’s Inside Politics Newsletter - September 2012.