It's the Middle Class Stupid!

With all the political focus on the middle class it's not surprising that James Carville and Stan Greenberg—two who advised Bill Clinton's first campaign—should pick up on "middle class" as a hot button phrase. According to Kirkus, one of the four most important pre-publication book reviewers, Carville and Greenberg define the middle class very broadly as including both "families in poverty to those making up to $125,000 per year." See the Kirkus review at their link.

That definition is exclusively income-based. Beyond-class.net includes dollar-based definitions, but goes beyond income and net worth into peoples' values, assumptions and behaviors.


Toward a definition of "middle class"

Anyone who looks at the United States today can see elements of a class society in the evening news—the 99 percenters camped in Zucotti Park vs. the top .01% of the wealthy with Wall Street bonuses, the inner city poor vs. the suburban middle class, workers with manufacturing jobs that went overseas, former corporate managers now working at fast-food franchises, homes lost by families who were promised no-down-payment mortgages, families in dying cities like Flint, Youngstown and Cape Coral. Of the four broad classes—poor, working, middle, and owning—the most difficult to define is the middle class. Not surprising. The boundaries are the least clear. Class Action asserts that the vast majority (80-90%) of people in the United States identify in some way as “middle class.” Some of the wealthiest as well as some of the poorest people call themselves middle class.

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Why explore social class?

Myriad influences impact each of our lives from early childhood (some even before we are born) to the present. We have forgotten most of the specific events that shaped our viewpoint. One example: I used to be scared of heights. One summer in college I got a job in a grain elevator in our town. One hundred-twenty foot white towers filled with wheat. My first job, sweep the dust out of the penthouse, and throw it off the side. No door on the tiny, wire-mesh lift to the top; two feet per second—a terrifying minute ride through space, my fingers laced through the wire mesh as I traveled alone to the top. Hoping I wouldn’t slip or lose my balance. Vertigo. Then sweep, scoop and toss the dust over the side. No railings, wind shrieking around me. Far below combines harvesting the fields in rhythmic patterns. Shake, sweat, panic. Stay as far from the edge as possible. — Two weeks of shuddering and perspiring behind me, I walk to edge, toss the shovel of dust over the side and watch as the wind carries it away before it hits the ground several stories below.

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