Our Phantom Middle Class

Of the many things we cannot bring ourselves to admit, one of the most consequential is that our vaunted middle class is illusory, a phantom of our imagination rather than a reality. The reality is the vast majority of the nation's wealth and income has been diverted from the middle class to those at the pinnacle of the wealth-power pyramid and the technocrat / financier insider class (the top 10%) that serves the interests of those at the pinnacle.

This transfer has accelerated rapidly in the 21st century as virtually all the real income gains of the past 20 years have flowed to the top 0.1%. This RAND study found that America's elites siphoned $50 trillion into their own pockets in the past two generations: Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018. (Please look at the "Fruits of Financialization" chart below.)

The earnings of the top 0.1% grew 15 times faster than the earnings of the bottom 90% (See chart below) as wages' share of the economy continues its 50-year decline.

As for wealth: the top 0.1% own more than the bottom 80% (see chart below) and the top 1% own 40% of all private wealth and the top 10% own 90%.

If the top 10% own 90% of the wealth and has captured virtually all the income gains of the past 20 years, then isn't it obvious America has no middle class? What the traditional middle class--generally defined as the 50% between the bottom 40% and the top 10%--own is debt and a feeble grasp on very thin reeds of capital.

Please ponder the chart below of the $1.7 trillion in student loan debt burdening those who bought the narrative that a college diploma was a passport to the security of the middle class. The debt load carried by those clinging on to aspirations of middle class security is staggering. As I've noted here before, burdening powerless students with uncertain futures with trillions in high-interest debt would have been viewed as criminal two generations ago, but now it's celebrated by those reaping the interest from precariat debt-serfs.

1 2 3
View single page >> |

Disclosures: None.

How did you like this article? Let us know so we can better customize your reading experience. Users' ratings are only visible to themselves.

Comments

Leave a comment to automatically be entered into our contest to win a free Echo Show.