Trying to Find the Middle

Finally, the political circus is over.  Or is it just getting started?  While everyone was screaming and pointing fingers at “the other side”, I contemplated how things have changed from when I was younger.  People on both sides lament the loss of what is called “the middle class”.  I agree with the general feeling there, but I wanted to consider it from a different perspective, one that put the fault on both sides.

Basically, the middle class is supposed to be an economic strata where you have elevated yourself from poverty and are on your way to the next level, which I suspect would be “affluent”.  Of course “middle class” has tiers within it: “upper-middle class”, “lower-middle class”, etc.  This was the largest economic group at one time and they were the ones that supported the country, because they didn’t have the means to get the tax breaks that the wealthy had, and they didn’t get the subsidies that the poor got.

Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion that the middle class is sinking into poverty, while the wealthy are pulling away at an exponential rate.  This is probably true, but my focus is on a different measurement than just pure income or pure tax rates or anything else economic.

Let’s paint a extreme stereotyped “liberal” and “conservative”.  The liberal would be the one who says, “It’s not worth it to work.  I make more on welfare and food stamps, plus I can EBay under the table for extra money.”  This would infuriate many people.  It’s someone taking advantage of the system meant to help people step up into middle class.

On the other end of the spectrum, you’d have the conservative who would say “I’m going to start a business so I can lower my taxes through write-offs and live large using business expenses.  If it fails, no big deal, the business will declare bankruptcy and I’ll walk away and do it again.”  Again, this would infuriate many people because it’s taking advantage of another system.

Then there’s the people stuck in the middle – the middle class.  They’re not interested in living off the system, and they’re not interested in playing the game to get the most money out of the system or other people.  They just want to do their job, do it well, and contribute to society.  Neither of the other two want to contribute, they want to take as much as they can for their own benefit.

And that’s where it’s becoming sad.  The middle class is being pulled towards these two extremes, because they are losing hope.  The ones near the bottom are saying, “why should I keep working?  I’m getting nowhere.”  The ones near the top are saying “Why should I be paying taxes?  They’re just going to the bums.”  So each moves a little closer to the extreme.  In addition, the strong conservatives belittle the middle class saying that they lack drive to start their own business and be like them.

The bottom line is that we have gotten selfish and greedy on a very personal level.  Our new slogan should be “America – What’s in it for me?”

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