Define the Term Middle Class

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I was going to write something a bit more controversial but I checked on a few facts and found out that I had no idea what I was talking about.  Checking facts is a good thing before spewing out words for people to read.  This subject is more curious than controversial.

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I would like someone to ask the candidates that run for office to define the term “middle class.”  In recent years every campaign will go on about how they will help the middle class and how their opponent will hurt the middle class.  We will be having the mid-term elections this year and I am sure we will hear this term in every speech.  Who are the middle class?  It is a nice term.  It is a term I believe only the extremely rich and desperately poor do not feel defines them.  Is there an overall definition of middle class?  A person making a good enough living to allow him or her to live in the suburbs of Washington, DC, would live like a king in many small towns in the Midwest.  The only way to assign an income range to the term, middle class, is to make it absurdly large.

Here is a quote I picked up from wiki that illustrates this point.

“Everyone wants to believe they are middle class…But this eagerness…has led the definition to be stretched like a bungee cord — used to defend/attack/describe everything…The Drum Major Institute…places the range for middle class at individuals making between $25,000 and $100,000 a year. Ah yes, there’s a group of people bound to run into each other while house-hunting.”

—Dante Chinni

Defining middle class is not an easy thing to do.  The $100,000 mentioned in the quote is under the median income of some of the Maryland and Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, and well beyond what people make in some counties in other parts of the country.  It is like defining a person’s comfort zone.  If a person feels that they are getting by, they feel they are in the middle class.  One household may make more money than another household, but their standard of living may be lower.  Things like the local cost of living, the number of dependents in the household, and the number of hours being worked have to be considered.

Candidates love nebulous terms like middle class, which allow them to make statements that sound definite when they really don’t mean anything at all.  So when candidates go on about how they are protecting the middle class they have a lot of wiggle room in those statements.  When they say middle class, they don’t have to be thinking about you.

Answers.com defines the middle class is being between the upper class and the working class.  That definition narrows the scope down a bit but it doesn’t really define the term.  There are no hard boundaries between the classes. Again, it is because it is not easy to define the boundaries.  In any case, if there is a working class, they seem to be ignored by both candidates.  The deal seems to be that the term working class has gone out of style and all people with a steady job consider themselves in the middle class.

A term like middle class defies fact checking and allows politicians to go on about nothing for quite a long time.  Another term that candidates love is small business.  Check the definition on that sometime.  It does not just mean mom and pop stores or a fellow’s photo shop.  A small business may have up to 500 employees , and that would make many of the defense contractors around Washington, DC small businesses.

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About

Pete is a retired software developer, a writer, and a martial arts instructor. He lives in Maryland with his wife Cathy and they are enjoying their retirement. Pete is the author of four novels, "The Teacher", 500 Years from Home", and "The Long Journey Home" are available at Lulu.com; and "Pioneers" in available at the Kindle Book Store.

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Posted in Opinion, politics, Social Issues

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