The Middle Class Is Feeling Abandoned

The Florida Times Union, February 16, 2016 | Go to article overview

The Middle Class Is Feeling Abandoned


America is a middle-class nation in ideals even when incomes aren't in the middle.

That means having a secure job that pays well enough that when you work hard, you can get ahead.

You can save for your children's college education and have something left for retirement.

But nearly two in three Americans feel the government isn't doing enough for the middle class, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

The middle class represented 62 percent of the nation in 1970, a healthy majority.

Now it's just 43 percent.

While people are doing better than a few years ago, the amount of unease is significant with 73 percent saying that strengthening the economy should be the top priority of the president and Congress, reports The New York Times.

A few of the Pew Center's comments:

- "Neither political party is widely viewed as supportive of the middle class."

- Of Democrats, about one-third of the public says the party favors the poor, one-third says it favors the middle class and one-third says it favors the rich. Of Republicans, about two-thirds say it favors the rich, about one-third says it favors the middle class and just 2 percent says it favors the poor.

The problem, Americans realize, is:

- A dearth of good-paying jobs.

- The rise of low-wage, part-time jobs.

- The loss of benefits in the contractor economy.

All of these factors work hand in hand to threaten national stability.

A majority of middle-class Americans (58 percent) and lower-class Americans (73 percent) say good jobs are hard to find. And most Americans also think the government doesn't do enough to help the elderly, the poor and children.

Here are more troubling stats:

- 49 percent say their family income is falling behind the cost of living.

- 42 percent say it's about even.

- Only 7 percent say their income is rising faster than the cost of living.

The one characteristic that increasingly is a dividing line is education. Higher education is connected to a wealth of traits beyond income such as quality of life and life expectancy.

EDUCATION: GREAT DIVIDE

That educational dividing line shows up early in life, even in prenatal care.

Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says the United States is making a huge public policy mistake by failing to invest in children in stressed neighborhoods.

High-income parents are spending more on enrichment activities for their children, from tutors to overseas trips. Low-income children may not even have books in the home and rarely get out of the house for educational trips.

The United States is spending much less on children than other advanced nations where early childhood education is universal, quality childcare is seen as a right and parental leave is more widely available.

Ironically, because America does so little on early childhood education, there is plenty of evidence to show what works. …

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