WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Midway through the last game of the 2013 Carolina League season, after he’d swept peanut shells and mopped soda off the concourse, Ed Green lumbered upstairs to the box seats to dump the garbage.
Green was already 12 hours into his workday. He rose at dawn to lay tar on the highway. As the sun sank, he switched uniforms and drove to BB&T Ballpark, where he runs the custodial crew for a minor-league baseball team. Now it was dark and his radio was crackling. It was his boss, asking him to head back downstairs. Green walked onto the first-base line and into a surprise. In front of 6,000 fans, the Winston-Salem Dash honored him as the team’s employee of the year.
The crowd applauded. The game resumed. Green walked back upstairs. The trash wasn’t going to empty itself.
Green once held a middle-class job. Now, to make enough money to send his children to college, he works the equivalent of two full-time jobs: one maintaining highways for the state of North Carolina and one ushering fans and collecting trash for a variety of sports teams around Winston-Salem.
The American economy has stopped delivering the broadly shared prosperity that the nation grew accustomed to after World War II. The explanation for why that is begins with the millions of middle-class jobs that vanished over the past 25 years, and with what happened to the men and women who once held those jobs.
Millions of Americans are working harder than ever just to keep from falling behind; Green is one of them. Those workers have been devalued in the eyes of the economy, pushed into jobs that pay them much less than the ones they once had.
Today, a shrinking share of Americans are working middle-class jobs, and collectively, they earn less of the nation’s income than they used to. In 1981, according to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of American adults were classified as “middle income” — which means their household income was between two-thirds and double the nation’s median income. By 2011, it was down to 51 percent. In that time, the “middle” group’s share of the national income pie fell from 60 percent to 45 percent.
For that, you can blame the past three recessions, which sparked a chain reaction of layoffs and lower pay.
Millions of American jobs disappeared during the 1990, 2001 and 2008 recessions. That’s what happens in recessions. But for decades after World War II, lost jobs came back when the economy picked up again. These times, they didn’t. And it was a particular sort of job that disappeared permanently in those downturns, economists from Duke University and the University of British Columbia have found: jobs that companies could easily outsource overseas or replace with a machine.
Economists call those jobs “middle-skill” jobs. They include a lot of factory work — the country is down about 5.5 million manufacturing jobs since 1990, according to the Labor Department — but also a lot of clerical and sales tasks that can be handled easily from a country where workers make a fraction of what they make here.
The Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau raised the economic plight of Canada’s middle class to national attention without being prodded to do so.
Now—after struggling to define who it is he’s worried about—Trudeau refuses to explain himself in light of an international study that contradicts his claims.
India may have set its sights on Mars and is aspiring to become a key global player, but its ambitions are in stark contrast to some of the realities it faces. One of the most shocking truths has come to light with the Global Survey Index mentioning the country as being home to half of the world’s modern slaves. This slavery ranges from severe forms of intergenerational bonded labour to forced and servile marriage, the worst forms of child labour and commercial and sexual exploitation.
In 2012, the Indian government banned all types of labour for children under the age of 14, making hiring a child a punishable offence. The ban followed the implementation in 2010 of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, popularly known as the RTE, which states that all children between the ages of 6 and 14 have the right to free schooling. Yet two years on from the child-labour ban, despite much talk, there has been little visible result on the ground. There are two main reasons behind the failure.
India has a problem with slavery, a very serious problem that rarely seems to merit discussion. The Global Slavery Index estimates that India is home to half of the world’s modern slaves. More than 100,000 young people are believed to be working in conditions of domestic slavery in Delhi alone. They are tricked into leaving their homes with promises of a better life in the capital, only to be sold to placement agencies who sell them on again to families. The stories they tell are of unimaginable abuse: rape, beatings, imprisonment and a life of penury.
Part of India’s problem is the rise of its middle class, who demand servants to ease their busy lives.
Read more: thenational.ae
My news aggregator discovered this blog post by Charles Pierce in which he notes how American businesses and manufacturers are responding by retooling to cater to the wealthy.
As Elvis Costello put it, “Oh, I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused.” But the best I can do is shake my head sadly.
President Obama tells the American people about his speech at Knox College on Wednesday, where he discussed the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class, including having a good job, a home that is your own, quality education, a secure retirement, and affordable health care.
Declaring “the time for excuses is over,” President Barack Obama is trumpeting the economic benefits of an immigration overhaul, arguing that a bipartisan bill picking up steam in the Senate would put the nation’s loathed deficits and fragile entitlements on better footing.
A recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, lawmakers’ nonpartisan scorekeeper, was Exhibit A in Obama’s weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. The report shows deficits would fall nearly $1 trillion over two decades after the bill becomes law.
What’s more, Obama said, the influx of immigrant-driven investment, technology and businesses would give the economy a 5% shot in the arm.
“This bipartisan, common-sense bill will help the middle class grow our economy and shrink our deficits, by making sure that every worker in America plays by the same set of rules and pays taxes like everyone else,” he said.
Confidence that the overhaul could pass the Senate by impressive margins is growing, and leaders scheduled a test vote on the bill for Monday, with a final vote expected by the end of next week. Although the heart of the bill is a 13-year pathway to citizenship for millions living in the United States illegally, it was a military-style surge to U.S.-Mexican border security, added this week to placate wary Republicans, that was credited for giving the bill a much-needed boost.
Remember, SS doesn’t contribute a dime to the deficit. There is no reason to include this in the budget except to sneak in tax increases on the middle class via the Chained CPI. Let’s be clear: this is deficit reduction on the backs of middle class workers, the elderly, the disabled and Veterans.Oh, and by the way, cutting vital programs in exchange for increasing taxes on the middle class and getting some temporary chump change from millionaires as a cover is not a balanced approach.
And for those Democrats like me who backed the health care reform because of the Medicaid expansion, well we really are a bunch of suckers. I assumed the president would protect that legacy above all others. But if he’s looking to cut Medicaid now, I guess we can assume that the only part of that legacy he cares about is the one that benefits the private insurers.
Prominent Democrats — including the President and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — are openly suggesting that Medicare be means-tested and Social Security payments be reduced by applying a lower adjustment for inflation.
This is even before they’ve started budget negotiations with Republicans — who still refuse to raise taxes on the rich, close tax loopholes the rich depend on (such as hedge-fund and private-equity managers’ “carried interest”), increase capital gains taxes on the wealthy, cap their tax deductions, or tax financial transactions.
It’s not the first time Democrats have led with a compromise, but these particular pre-concessions are especially unwise.
For over thirty years Republicans have pitted the middle class against the poor, preying on the frustrations and racial biases of average working people who can’t get ahead no matter how hard they try. In the Republican narrative, government takes from the hard-working middle and gives to the undeserving and dependent needy.
In reality, average working people have been stymied because almost all the economic gains of the last three decades have gone to the very top. The middle has lost bargaining power as unions have shriveled. American politics has been flooded with campaign contributions from corporations and the wealthy, which have used their clout to reduce marginal tax rates, widen loopholes, loosen regulations, gain subsidies, and obtain government bailouts when their bets turn sour.
The Republicans, now led from behind by House Speaker John Boehner, are painting themselves into a tiny corner. Boehner may have secured his job as speaker but he has categorically rejected any hope of a grand bargain, thereby leading his party in a rejection of America’s middle class. Unless he can be persuaded by Republican senators and a few dozen of his House colleagues to accept a balanced deal with the president and the Democrats he will severely harm his party by appealing only to the Tea Party.
Leaving the White House after the meeting with the president, Speaker Boehner dug in his heels against the closing of any tax loopholes or raising any revenue. Hasn’t he learned anything since the election?
Look at what has happened to the Republicans. Democrats have a 22 point advantage (according to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll) on who would look out for the middle class, the largest margin in 20 years. The same poll found that 36 percent of the public viewed the Republicans favorably in October of 2012, only 29 percent view them favorably today—a remarkable drop in just four months.
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) — a possible Republican candidate for president in 2016 — rejected former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s argument that conservatives must embrace marriage equality for gays and lesbians if they want to survive as a party and reiterated his support for “traditional marriage.”
“Look, I believe in the traditional definition of marriage,” Jindal said during an appearance on Meet The Press on Sunday, and went on to claim that Republicans don’t have to make the case on social issues to attract young voters and win future elections and instead should continue focusing on economic issues. “We lost [the 2012 election] because we didn’t present a vision showing how we believe the entire economy can grow, how people can join the middle class. We’re in aspirational party and we need policies that are consistant with that aspirational private sector growth.”
In an essay for The American Conservative entitled “Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause,” Huntsman — a Mormon whose previous support for civil unions set him apart from Republican presidential candidates in 2012 — argued that if the Republican Party wants to survive, it must enhance its appeal to gay Americans and the growing majority that supports marriage equality.