Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hourglass nation

Proctor and Gamble is an iconic American company that makes products like laundry detergent, paper towels and toothpaste. The company's products are ubiquitous in our homes, and it has dominated its markets for decades.

But recently, it looked at its numbers and found sales to middle class families slipping. Normally, that would have been cause for more marketing or repackaging. But nothing is normal these days.

When P&G looked at its numbers, it also found that sales of its lower-priced products had increased significantly. That would be expected during an economic contraction, and in other times, the slip would be a blip on the company's radar—nothing to be concerned about.

However, P&G is not alone in recognizing a change that is galvanizing national companies whose target market has been a stable and prosperous middle class with household incomes between $50,000 and $140,000 a year. Those households previously made up 40 percent of total households.

What's surprising and appalling about the situation is that P&G believes that the slide toward cheaper products is more than just a blip. In fact, it's betting that the downward change in consumer choices will be long-lasting, so long that the company is developing new products in order to reduce prices to appeal to burgeoning numbers of cash-strapped Americans.

Normally, new product development by a big company isn't remarkable. But this is extraordinary because, according to the Wall Street Journal, it's been 38 years since P&G launched a new bargain-priced dish soap. Thirty-eight years ago, Richard Nixon was president of the United States.

The newspaper also reported that economic analysts at many companies have concluded that American incomes are now shaped like an hourglass with the wealthy on top, few in the middle and more on the bottom. In other words, the middle class really is disappearing.

In just two years, 2008 and 2009, the net worth of American households dropped by a whopping 26.2 percent, largely because of the drop in home values.

A P&G analyst pointed out that one economic measure paints a picture of income disparity in America that now is similar to the Philippines and Mexico.

This is horrifying. These are economic conditions that most Americans have never seen. With an economic profile like this, it's no wonder that Americans are grumpy and out of sorts.

We need to turn that anger and discontent into action. We need to demand real-world plans and real-world action instead of platitudes and foot dragging from political leaders who need to recognize that laundry detergent doesn't lie.

About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads

 Local Weather 
Search archives:

Copyright © 2020 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.