How Does America’s Middle Class Rank Globally? #27
We are number 1 right? USA! USA! No one can beat our wealth creation machine, our economic dynamism, our level playing field and our bastions of higher education. We have a middle class that is the envy of the world, right?
Well, like so much of the “American dream” we have been force fed for a generation or more, this perception is not based in reality whatsoever. Sure it may have been the case for a couple of decades immediately after World War 2. Before the military-industrial-Wall Street complex fully took over the political process, but it certainly isn’t true any longer. Myths die hard and this one is particularly pernicious because it prevents people from changing things. As James Baldwin said:
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
From the Huffington Post:
America is the richest country on Earth. We have the most millionaires, the most billionaires and our wealthiest citizens have garnered more of the planet’s riches than any other group in the world. We even have hedge fund managers who make in one hour as much as the average family makes in 21 years!
This opulence is supposed to trickle down to the rest of us, improving the lives of everyday Americans. At least that’s what free-market cheerleaders repeatedly promise us.
Unfortunately, it’s a lie, one of the biggest ever perpetrated on the American people.
Our middle class is falling further and further behind in comparison to the rest of the world. We keep hearing that America is number one. Well, when it comes to middle-class wealth, we’re number 27.
The most telling comparative measurement is median wealth (per adult). It describes the amount of wealth accumulated by the person precisely in the middle of the wealth distribution — fifty percent of the adult population has more wealth, while fifty percent has less. You can’t get more middle than that.
* Side note: May want to cross Cyprus off the above list…
The Huffington Post also provides a list as to why this is the case. While I don’t agree with all of them, I agree with most. Here are a few:
- Wall Street is out of control.
- Higher education puts our kids into debt.
- It’s hard to improve your station in life if you’re in prison.
- Our tax structures favor the rich.
- The wealthy dominate politics and the media.
They go on to correctly note:
Is there one cause of the middle-class collapse that rises above all others?
Yes. The International Labor organization produced a remarkable study, (Global Wage Report 2012-13) that sorts out the causes of why wages have remained stagnant while elite incomes have soared. The report compares key causal explanations like declining bargaining power of unions, porous social safety nets, globalization, new technologies and financialization.
Guess which one had the biggest impact on the growing split between the one percent and the 99 percent?