Why This Generation’s Middle Class Will Never Be Like Last Generation’s
After taking in the bleak picture painted in this article about America’s languishing middle class, I found myself asking a different question then the many burning ones asked in the article itself. Why are we concerned with “why” the new middle class has been “treading water” for the past several decades, or “how” to restore every American willing to part with 40 hours a week into a position of affluence? We should not be puzzled that it is no longer easy to own a home and raise a family on a single income that requires no education and no training. The question is why that could have ever been possible in the first place.
Gone is the era of Homer Simpson—nominally-educated button-pushing weekend warriors. Now is the era of Frank Grimes—well-educated self-starters who find themselves waiting to see what scraps of our economy will be left over after the Homer Simpsons relinquish their posts, collect their generous pensions, clean out the social security fund, and savor their artificially overvalued property for what amounts to the longest retirement in history.
Today’s middle class does not languish as a result of the top 1%, as Edward Luce suggests in his piece. It languishes because of yesterday’s middle class, who lived during a unique period of world history and embellished their good fortune through a mania of government regulation to enhance the value of their property, subsidize their retirements, and limit the entry of competitors for their wealth.
All of it is made slightly worse, of course, by our memories of how good life seemed just a few short years ago, and the resentment at its falling out of our grasp.
Sadly, the only ones who seem to be concerned with the plight of the middle class are the liberals and progressives who want to address the problem by offering government intervention as the medicine that will cure the sickness that government intervention helped cause.
Thus, perhaps the real question is, can we forget about how happy and how well the middle class lived in 50s through the 70s? Or, at least, can we convince ourselves that it was a fluke of history that will never be repeated?