Can the Middle Class Be Saved?

Yes, according to, a little over half of the US work force is employed by small business. Interestingly 52% of small business is home based, 2% franchise.

It’s a curious reversion to the past if so. If we go back to the 19th century you have a majority of people living in rural areas, usually at or below median standards of living and a relatively new group of industrial poor living around factories. Between those two groups and the rich (large scale landowners, industrialists, bankers, etc) there was a small group of urban trades people and shop owners called the middle class. Since then the middle class has exploded, with unionization bringing those industrial jobs to a middle class standard of living and vast expansion of government and corporate presence bringing with it an entirely new class of white collar jobs and the technical jobs surrounding them.

Now those industrial jobs are disappearing as the manufacturing sector slowly fades away, the technical jobs are being outsourced or made redundant by new technologies, and the public sector and corporate white collar jobs are threatened by cutbacks and/or the same outsourcing/redundancies that are killing the technical sector. We’re left with the service sector jobs that the Walmart-type enterprises provide along with what I call infrastructure jobs (plumbers, electricians, construction workers, carpenters, etc). That and providing for the care of those 20th century middle class workers who are now retired and in declining health.

My advice for anyone today looking to maintain a middle class standard of living from their 20s into what is currently retirement age range (60s) would be to take up the kind of trade job which will always be needed, or go into health care. We’ll always need people to make sure the lights turn on when we flick a switch, and someone has to walk that baby boomer back and forth to the bathroom.

Those infrastructure jobs have been hit too by the housing bubble, which you could call a temporary situation, I guess. Still, at this time, healthcare seems to be the only sector that actually has a substantial demand for people.

Am I being too Pollyannish to think that the drop in housing costs will eventually lead to a new boom in home buying when/if the economy finally picks up? People who were being priced out will be able to buy homes, new and used. And it is that market which helps drive things.

The people who bought the homes were people who couldn’t afford them at their real price already. The credit of a large swath of the population that would presumably buy foreclosed homes (low to mid-low income families) already bought and lost them.

the sooner the better. the past few years prove that capitalism has failed miserably. time for a change.

Communism was shown to fail a long time ago in far worse ways then capitalism has.

I doubt you’re right about either (but I really hope you are!). Clumping together in anthills is both cheaper and more sustainable in the long term, so I believe it’s a fairly safe assumption that the vast majority of our populations will end up living like that.
Unfortunately most small businesses can’t really compete on anything but being closer to their customers, and that probably won’t be terribly easy under such circumstances. Unless you’re selling junk food or toilet paper, I guess.
Moreover, I can’t find any reasons that small businesses wouldn’t be as or more interested in employing as few people as at all possible. In the long run, employing a person is a very, very costly thing to do.

If the USSR and its associated satellites hadn’t failed 20 years ago, the credit crisis of 2008 and the problems since would have produced all kinds of “told you so” polemics and rhetoric from Marxist theoreticians behind the iron curtain. With only poor Fidel and the lunatics in North Korea left though, capitalism bashing just doesn’t have the same zing.

This is a great post by L. Randall Wray (an MMT-er–warning, very acerbic) concerning the use of the debt-limit/deficit hysteria as a way to screw the middle class in the U.S.

Also insightful: “MMT as an alternative to austerity”.

No, they don’t keep well in tupperware.

The Billionaires are in charge and cannot be defeated.

Until they are.

The middle class is the source of long term political stability, in any country. As the fortunes of the middle class decline the historical tendency is for there to be great “swings” of instability, an increasing polarisation between more extreme left-wing and extreme right-wing movements. If the middle class in America is genuinely in danger - if they really are absorbed into the working class - this will not merely be a tragedy in itself but very likely a prelude to a far worse tragedy.

But that article certainly makes a convincing case that there’s trouble coming. The long-term economic trend combined with the deep-rooted, very hard to reverse changes in the cultural institutions of social stability such as marriage and the family, all appear to be moving strongly - in some cases, rapidly - in a very worrying direction. And the policy prescriptions he suggests as an antidote are a) plausible-sounding but unlikely to be effective unless pursued rigorously over a long period of time and b) politically impossible. No need to rehash the “American politics is broken” theme here but things that are from a policy point of view simple, obvious, everybody-wins propositions are close to being undoable from a political perspective. Policies that are hard to explain and to sell, require persistence over long periods in order to pay off, and have some potential to be used as ammunition to demonstrate the failure of whoever implemented them? Things like, eg, making larger investments in the public education system? Not going to happen.

We’re going to need socialism to understand our future, capitalism will never make it. It is becoming overly complicated and monopolistic, it won’t solve our future needs.

Mixed economies or “socialism” with markets (as exists to a greater or lesser extent in Western Europe) seems to work best. Command-economy socialism pretty much sucked for most concerned, especially creative types who didn’t want to toe the line.

The first world, including America, are more than rich enough to run a few hundred long-term experiments with both tried & untried economic systems on a fairly large scale, without having them directly interface with the one(s) we’re all currently using.

But doing that is probably too smart to be the future. How’s that saying, if it’s broke don’t fix it?

In the future, Mega-corporations will replace governments, and the hacker anarchist will be the only counterbalance to the drones that feed them.

So we’re heading towards a Shadowrun world?

I’m thinking more Snow Crash.

Maybe Deux Ex will scratch your need then?