The Disappearing Middle Class?

I know there is plenty of angst these days about slashing the federal deficit, health care and MLB’s designated hitter rule. Let me add another to the growing list. If our economy can’t sustain stable, well-paying jobs, what happens to the middle class in this country?

I’ve actually been noodling over this for several years. I’ve had kind of a front row seat to watch the dismantling of our manufacturing industries — growing up in Pittsburgh and then living, and working, my adult life in Akron. And when John Nevin, the former head of Firestone, several years ago opined that the USA would not survive as a nation of burger flippers most just shrugged as the economy generated jobs — and wealth — in essentially white collar service and professional areas.

Now those jobs are vanishing as well. Sigh.

Here’s the story from the front page of the Akron Beacon Journal Sunday by Kevin G. Hall, “Middle class losing vitality.” An excerpt:

The well-paying, predominantly white-collar jobs that once sustained many American communities are disappearing at an alarming pace, keeping the unemployment rate stubbornly high despite the end of the recession.

More troubling, these jobs in accounting, financial analysis, commercial printing and a broad array of other mostly white-collar occupations are unlikely to come back, experts predict.

There isn’t a single cause to the trend. Some of it is explained by changing technology, some of it is the result of automation. Sending well-paying jobs to low-cost centers abroad is another big part of the story. So is global competition from emerging economies such as China and India.

The result is the same in all cases, however. Jobs that paid well, required skills and produced vital communities are going away and
aren’t being replaced by anything comparable.

I’m not sure that the policy wonks and others Inside the Beltway really understand that this is the reality now in most other parts of the country. And when Prez O goes to India and talks about the economy, all I can think about is that every time I call customer service for just about any large company these days I end up talking to someone in New Delhi. Woot.

This is about the economy, stupid. And about having sufficient jobs today and in the years ahead that allow individuals and families to attain and maintain a middle class lifestyle.

And if the middle class disappears, what’s left?

A nation of burger flippers?




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