“Sorry” Doesn’t Pay the Rent: The Murder of the American Middle Class

Monday, November 11, 2013
By Paul Martin

By Wendy Burnett

“Sorry, we’re cutting hours this week.” These words are heard often in the retail industry, most often by those who already get less hours than are needed to be able to pay rent and eat. When you’re only scheduled for 18 hours, losing 5 hours can, and often does, mean there won’t be any groceries that week. Is it any wonder that the middle class is shrinking, and that more and more people are slipping into poverty? The murder of the middle class is continuing, and it has to stop.

Murder is a strong word, but in this case it’s also an accurate one. The middle class isn’t dying by accident, it’s dying because of the greed of American corporations. It’s being murdered by the greed that caused the collapse of the housing market and threw the country into a recession, the greed that outsources well-paying American jobs to countries where companies can pay workers a fraction of what a US worker would earn, the greed that replaces full-time jobs with part-time jobs, and the greed that pays a CEO hundreds of times what the lowest paid worker in the company earns.

Even worse, a corrupt Congress has become an accessory to that murder; refusing to pass jobs bills and pandering to the corporations that have stolen the American Dream. Bills that would encourage job creation are blocked, bills that would increase penalties for violations of H-1B visa rules die, and bills that would eliminate tax breaks for companies that offshore jobs and eliminate American workers are quietly killed; while bills to bail out the banks that destroyed the economy pass with little trouble.

In 2010, according to the Census Bureau, 6.7% of Americans were living on incomes equaling half of poverty level, a jump of 1.5% from the beginning of the housing collapse, and an increase of 3.4% over the low in 1976. When you include everyone living at poverty level or below, the picture looks even worse, with 33.3% of all Americans living in poverty in 2010, increasing from 26.1% only 3 years earlier. How did we go from a quarter of Americans living in poverty to a third of Americans living in poverty? Where did all those extra poor people come from? They came from the middle class, and they got there because of corporate greed and partisan politics.

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