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Extreme Ineqality


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Extreme Ineqality

  1. 1. Long Live the Statistical Middle Class! A PRESENTATION BY SAM PIZZIGATI Institute for Policy Studies Washington, D.C. HOW CLASS WORKS Center for Study of Working Class Life JUNE 5, 2008
  2. 2. What is the historic mission of the working class? The classic answer To overthrow the class system A more modest answer To create a middle class society
  3. 3. The Push-Back ‘Middle class’ a sloppy formulation that obfuscates the exploitation of one class by another. ‘Middle classness’ repudiates the core working class values no decent society can ever afford to marginalize.
  4. 4. Respect for the dignity of physical labor
  5. 5. Solidarity
  6. 6. A healthy skepticism toward privilege and power
  7. 7. ‘Middle classness’ inverts working class values Not respect for physical labor . . . but distaste Not solidarity . . . but rushing to get ahead Not skepticism toward privilege and power . . . but a need to be accepted by the privileged and powerful
  8. 8. Which values more admirable? Working Class Middle Class Respect for physical labor Distaste for physical labor Solidarity Getting ahead Skepticism toward privilege Yearning for acceptance by privilege
  9. 9. So why should a middle class society be our goal? Because we’re not talking ‘middle class’ here as a historical construct, with whatever baggage that may carry We’re talking middle class as a statistical phenomenon
  10. 10. What’s the difference? Ruling class Middle by position The middle class as Middle class in the social structure a historical construct Working class
  11. 11. The statistical middle class Average U.S. Incomes, 2008 $1,485,000 Statistical middle class $256,000 Statistical middle class $117,000 $67,300 $40,800 $24,900 $12,200 Lowest Second Third 20% Fourth Next 15% Next 4% Top 1% 20% 20% 20% Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy Tax Model, March 2007
  12. 12. The emerging global standard The statistical middle class $24,101 $96,402 Half median to twice median $48,201 $0 $250,000 Median Income 2006: U.S. Census Bureau
  13. 13. What do we know about the statistical middle class? The greater the share of a society’s households in the  statistical middle class, the  better the society for everyone       Low-Income High-Income Half median to twice median The Statistical Middle Class
  14. 14. How do we know this? An explosion of research on what happens when societies have large middle classes — and when they don’t. Economists Epidemiologists Psychologists Political scientists Sociologists Demographers Environmental scientists
  15. 15. A wealth of findings about wealth distribution The more statistically middle class a society, the better the society for all the people in it.  The more democratic  The more economically vibrant  The more environmentally sound  The more honest  The more trustful  The more compassionate  The more healthy
  16. 16. People who live in ‘middle class’ societies . . . Have more Visit museums Enjoy more economic security more often leisure time Work in less Have cooler Have shorter stressful jobs high-tech gadgets commutes Worry less Find parking Pay less for about crime spaces quicker housing Get more pleasure Vote more Need to diet watching sports regularly less frequently See fewer Live longer, Contribute more beggars happier lives to charities
  17. 17. Middle class societies work these wonders . . . . . . because a middle class society, with narrower economic divides between people, tends to be more socially cohesive. Low Incomes Median Income High Incomes The more people who share similar economic circumstances, the smaller the gap from rich to poor, the better the social outcomes.
  18. 18. An income distribution comparison Japan and the United States Incomes in the Year 2000 United States Japan Source:
  19. 19. What difference can distribution make? ‘Research during this last decade has shown that the health of a group of people is not affected substantially by individual behaviors such as smoking, diet and exercise, by genetics or by the use of health care. In countries where basic goods are readily available, people's life span depends on the hierarchical structure of their society; that is, the size of the gap between rich and poor.’ Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, University of Washington School of Public Health Source: Population Health Forum
  20. 20. The Working Class Imperative: Narrowing that Gap Leveling up Leveling down the bottom the top
  21. 21. The gap can be narrowed In the middle decades of the 20th century, the American working class fought and won battles . . . To gain a fairer share of the wealth that workers created To tax income and wealth progressively To forge a social safety net To guarantee all workers a minimum wage
  22. 22. Even a maximum wage!
  23. 23. In the mid 20th century, real leveling success Average income of top 0.01 percent of U.S. families as a multiple of average income of bottom 90 percent of U.S. families 1000 900 800 700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0
  24. 24. 800 1000 0 600 200 400 1917 1919 1921 1923 1925 1927 1929 1931 1933 1935 1937 1939 1941 1943 1945 1947 1949 1951 1953 1955 1957 1959 1961 1963 1965 1967 1969 1971 1973 1975 1977 1979 1981 1983 of average income of bottom 90 percent of U.S. families 1985 1987 Average income of top 0.01 percent of U.S. families as a multiple 1989 The Last 30 Years: A Grand Reversal 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005
  25. 25. Not a middle class society, but a top-heavy society $213,913,695 Average annual incomes, $174,981,403 400 highest-earning Americans, before and after taxes (in dollars inflation adjusted to 2005) $11,958,028 $5,835,518 1955 2005 Total added potential political power for top 400 in 2005: over $67 billion
  26. 26. The leveling imperative forgotten ‘We really don't care what the people in the executive branch make just as long as our members and their families can share in the wealth and have decent pay and job security.’ D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer of Culinary Union Local 226, largest union in Nevada, representing 60,000 Las Vegas workers, and an executive vice-president, UNITE HERE
  27. 27. The leveling imperative remembered
  28. 28. The task ahead Level up the bottom A middle class society (statistically speaking) Level down the top
  29. 29. For research background and updates Text available online at An weekly email newsletter