The biggest story to come out of the so-called Great Recession, certainly not the most written or talked about by a long shot, but in my mind the most important, is the cracking of the middle class.
This is something that needs to be recognized for what it is. Certainly politicians don’t want to face up to it. Wall Street doesn’t want to. Corporate American doesn’t want to. Even most of the press doesn’t want to, which is curious especially when you consider that journalists aren’t particularly well paid, and the majority are smack-dab in that squeezed middle class.
This is what I was getting at in December when I wrote about the debate over whether $250,000 be considered rich. If you can honestly debate that, what does it say about the people who are nowhere near that level?
There are more of them than you might think. I’m looking at some demographics data about New York City, from 2007. Granted that’s before the recession started, but I bet the percentages haven’t changed much, if anything, they’re worse. In the city in 2007, 5.5% of the households made more than $200,000 in income and benefits.
But what’s truly interesting is this: 68.5% of the households in New York City made less than $75,000 in wages and benefits. Going further, 51.8% of the households made less than $50,000. If you live in or around the city, you can appreciate how hard it’s got to be to raise a family on $75,000 or less.
The dollar amounts might be different across the nation, but I bet the percentages aren’t very different, and it speaks to the serious deterioration in wages and the value of the dollar over the past generation.