Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A declining middle class

There has been an economic assumption that we Americans are guaranteed our place in the middle class. Middle class is an economic distinction, but it is also a set of values, a way of life. The middle class is populated by those people who get educated, work hard, save their money, give a bit to charity, and live in a nice home with other middle-class people.

Now this middle class is in big trouble. Owning a home, once regarded as the sign and seal of personal prosperity, has become, instead, a threat for many. What had been impossible to even imagine—mortgage loans under water, foreclosures, neighbors evicted by the banks—are things that happen to other people, to people who have not worked hard or gotten educated or saved a few dollars, but not to people in the middle class.

Government's social safety net wasn't supposed to be for the middle class. The middle class was supposed to be able to take care of itself. However, now, in these dark economic times, even the middle class needs help to avoid sliding inexorably into poverty.

Leaders in Congress are busy cutting down the social safety net, claiming that they have to do so because times are tough. Aren't tough times, though, the very time that safety net is most needed?

We need better answers than to blame the victims and hold on tight. We need a government committed to supporting everyone struggling to meet the economic burdens. Tough times are exactly when those who are OK most need to pitch in to help those who are not. That is how America created a middle class, and it is the only way to keep it.

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