Monday, December 29, 2014

Robert Samuelson to Middle Class: I find your lack of faith disturbing

Robert Samuelson says the middle class is thinning out because it doesn't believe hard enough:

What the middle class faces today is a crisis of faith. Being middle class is more than attaining some threshold income. It also involves embracing a set of beliefs that, unfortunately, have been severely shaken. 
Middle-class Americans believe in opportunity, stability, reward for effort, a brighter future and the ability to control their lives, as sociologist Herbert Gans showed in his 1988 book “Middle American Individualism.”
Anybody who endured any bout of unemployment during the Great Recession would be bound to have their faith in such precepts shaken. There's nothing like wondering if you're going to be poor forever to make you question the American dream. And that's true even if you got back on track, somehow. I've got a good job these days, one of the best I've had, but I'm also deeply aware of how fragile it all is — how lucky I am to have found my way back.  The underlying faith I used to have that things would generally be on an upward trajectory? Gone. I miss it.

Samuelson adds:
The economy is more random, unstable and insecure than we imagined. It is less susceptible to policy engineering. The fact that the upper classes can better shield themselves against its upsets naturally breeds resentment.
That's not quite right. The resentment is bred more from the fact that the upper classes are shielded by government from the vagaries of the economy more than the lower classes are. Banks were too big to fail, our tax dollars bailed them out, and executives kept on collecting bonuses. Middle class home buyers found themselves stuck with underwater mortgages,meanwhile, and got lectures about responsibility. The people most directly responsible for screwing the economy suffered little, if any, long-term consequences. The rest of us are still living with consequences in many cases. Hard to have faith when lived experience contradicts it.

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