middle class splitting

The Shrinking Middle-Class




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week mean (3) weak/weaker/weakest
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wonder make sure minimum wage
wage trade (2) fall/fell/fallen (2)
fire (2) strike (2) go on strike
relocate squarely air traffic controller
side (2) embolden tell/told/told
avoid majority membership
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stay (2) check (2) lose/lost/lost (2)
import shrink (2) few/fewer/fewest
export dream (3) a lot to do with it
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tout attention pay attention
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way in order to spend/spent/spent (2)
legal share (4) offshore (2)
profit wave (3) the way of
fortune point (3) Fortune 500
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lift (3) rising tide conservative (2)
benefit rest of us rise/rose/risen
median member good/better/best






Is the United States still the land of opportunity? Honestly, not anymore because the American dream relies on the one thing this country is killing: the middle class.

Being middle class today means you earn between $40,000 and $120,000 a year depending on where you live. You’re not poor, but nor are you rich; you’re getting by.

Back in the 1960s, over half of American households were middle-class . . . But that middle class has been shrinking ever since. Today the median income is less than it was in 1989.

But the cost of living, of course, keeps going up. In just the last 15 years, the cost of housing, healthcare, child care and college have all skyrocketed.

That means people are working longer hours, for less pay, just to keep the lights on.

How has it gotten to this?

Unions are Busted

Let’s start with unions, those organizations that workers belong to so they don’t get screwed by management.

The United States has historically had some of the strongest unions. But in the last thirty years, membership has nosedive. Back in the 1950s, more than a third of private sector workers (32% to 35%) belonged to a union. Today that number stands at seven percent (7%).

Check out the share of income the middle-class takes home compared to union membership: weaker unions; weaker middle class. Without bargaining power, it’s no wonder that the federal minimum wage has also fallen.

So what happened?

A defining moment was in 1981 when 13,000 air traffic controllers went on strike. President Ronald Reagan responded by firing them. All of them.

This action put the US government squarely on the side of management, embolden execs to go after unions.

Since then, there have been waves of laws passed by states that weaken union membership, which corporations take advantage of by relocating to states that have weaker unions and fewer labor laws — that’s if they stay in the country at all.

Exporting Jobs

Why are there fewer and fewer good-paying jobs? We’re often told the technology has a lot to do with it. And yes, since the 1970s, millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost to automation.

But that’s just part of the story.

You know those boring trade agreements that get negotiated in secret? Well pay attention because while they’re touted is being great for growth, they’ve also hurt American workers — the US lost nearly 700,000 jobs mostly in manufacturing thanks to NAFTA.

And while China is a favorite scapegoat, it’s the United States that open the doors to trade without properly protecting its industry or workers. In five years 1.8 million jobs were lost as companies moved abroad or decided to import cheaper goods.

Politicians in Wealthy Pockets

Who knew the American dream included lobbyists?

Today the biggest corporations have armies of lobbyists who make sure that things go the way of big business in Washington. And they spend 2.6 billion dollars a year to do just that — that’s 34 times the amount that unions and public interest groups spend.

And it’s totally legal.

So is keeping your profits offshore in order to avoid paying American taxes — that’s what most Fortune 500 companies do.

About those taxes, in 40 years the top point one percent (0.1%) actually saw their taxes cut in half, whereas the middle class is paying more.

Many conservatives argue that rising tides lifts all boats, that if the rich make more money, eventually it’ll benefit the rest of us.

But has that actually happened?

Yes the economy is doing better since the Great Recession. But overall the rich are getting richer while the majority of Americans keep getting poor.

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Homeless. What do the “American Dream” and “The United States is a land of opportunity” mean?

Prisoner, Convict. Are things different from the past? Is the American lifestyle the same today as it was in the past? How have things changed?

Poor, Destitute. Does everyone like unions? Does everyone favor unions?

Has union membership and the power of unions changed over time?

Unemployed. The number of factory jobs in the United States has always increased. Is this right or wrong? What are the three main reasons many factory workers lost their jobs?

Working-poor. Politicians always do what is best for working Americans. Is this correct or incorrect? Do most lobbyists advocate for workers?

Working-class, Lower middle-class. What have been the political, economic social results?
Middle-class. Why might many Americans be struggling? Why are some people no longer in the middle-class? What advice would you give her?

Upper middle-class.
What can you say about socio-economic classes or social classes in your city and country? Has it always been this way? How have things changed?

Is there a large gap between rich and poor or rich and middle-class? Is it easy, difficult, in the middle or in-between to move up (advance in) the social-economic ladder, or it depends?

Rich, Wealthy.
Do people think this is a problem, unjust or unfair? Is there a lot of debate, controversy, criticism and complaint about the current situation?

Ultra-Wealthy, Super Rich.
What might happen in the future?

Pensioner, Retiree.
What could or should people and governments do?

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