An interesting article by Paul Krugman can be found here. Basically it's about the US and general perception of what and who the 'middle class' are. Now I must state right away that as a socialist I don't accept the concept of 'middle class'. For me there can be only two possible classes within the worldwide capitalist system: the capitalist class and the working class. Whatever your wage, salary or remuneration, if you must have a job, be in employment or follow a profession in order to have a roof over your head, food to eat and all the necessities of life, then you are clearly of the working class. When we talk of the 1% we are really referring to a much smaller percentage of the population, to those whose income is derived without the need to actually 'work' but who receive it from business profits, shares, the fruit of the labour of others and they are the capitalist class.
Now, back to Krugman who begins, ' One of the odd things about the United States has long been the immense
range of people who consider themselves to be middle class - and are
deluding themselves. Low-paid workers who would be considered poor by
international standards, say with incomes below half the median,
nonetheless consider themselves lower-middle-class; people with incomes
four or five times the median consider themselves, at most,
So what is it that makes people feel that they want to be or are 'middle class'?
According to Krugman, '- - - when we talk about being middle-class, we have two crucial attributes of that status in mind: security and opportunity.
By security, I mean that you have enough resources and backup that
the ordinary emergencies of life won't plunge you into the abyss. This
means having decent health insurance, reasonably stable employment and
enough financial assets that having to replace your car or your boiler
isn't a crisis.
By opportunity I mainly mean being able to get your children a good
education and access to job prospects, not feeling that doors are shut
because you just can't afford to do the right thing.'
Well, fair enough but that seems to preclude an awful lot of people from a halfway decent life. What about all those others who work and struggle in low paid jobs. Aren't they entitled to security and opportunity too? When the work that's available is not enough to secure security and opportunity and there are too many would-be workers chasing the same available jobs what shall we say to them? What shall we label them?
The article focusses on a recent Pew Survey (find it here) from which Krugman reveals 'in early 2008 only 6 percent of Americans considered themselves
lower-class - far below the official poverty rate! - only 2 percent
upper-class and 1 percent didn't know. So 91 percent of Americans -
roughly speaking, people with incomes between $15,000 and $250,000 -
considered themselves middle-class.'
And he goes on to explain why many of them were mistaken. Lack of health insurance and decent public education for instance. Although the survey relates to US perceptions and realities (and I recommend it for its clarity) both it and Krugman's analysis are necessarily firmly entrenched within the capitalist system's way of observing and explaining economic realities and how they affect us all.
Socialism, much maligned and misunderstood, (especially, I believe in the US) is about egalitarianism, among other things. No classes, no 'us and them', security and opportunity for all and a place for everyone at the table.