2016 February 01 Monday
White Middle Class Rebelling Against Both American Parties

How Both Parties Lost the White Middle Class

Today, the vast middle of the middle fears that unless you're on the way up, you're on the way down.

I've been making that argument here for years because it seems correct. I've been arguing that you had better try to go up because if you aren't trying to go up you are very likely headed down. My sense of it was that a lot of people in the middle are in denial on this point. I'd expect government workers to feel immune and perhaps people in some industries that haven't been hit yet by lots of automation and outsourcing.

In the essay above R.R. Reno argues that a big split is between those who benefit from globalization and those who are doing poorly as a result of globalization. But he only captures one part of it. The three causes of this split are automation, global trade, and immigration.

Reno is right when he argues the Left derides the white middle class:

The message: White middle-class Americans aren't just irrelevant to America's future, they're in the way.

Meanwhile the Right has people deriding anyone who isn't an innovator or entrepreneur. So the (shrinking) middle feels abandoned by both parties. Makes sense. They really have been abandoned by both parties. Hard to believe this would happen and so they've been slow to figure it out. They've just finally started to express themselves by voting for candidates who at least pretend to feel loyal to them.

My favorite Bureau of Labor Statistics page (yes, I have a favorite BLS page) is about employment population ratio by educational level. Look at how the high school grads and high school drop-outs are faring against those with some college or a bachelor's degree or better. I think this drop in status and employment is a long term trend that won't reverse any time soon.

My advice continues to be the same: go for skills and move to places that will give you better opportunities for advancement. Even if Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders gets elected in November 2016 the prospects for the middle will not brighten. I think Trump could slow the decline but not reverse the fortunes of the middle class. Sanders probably can't even do that much.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2016 February 01 10:44 PM 

Wolf-Dog said at February 2, 2016 5:26 AM:

If Donald Trump keeps his word and stops the foreign trade deficit, then the decline of the middle class will not only slow down but it will stop and even get reversed, and here is why...

This is the US GDP table by year:

And this is the US trade deficit table by year:

As you can see, for more than a decade, the foreign trade deficit has been a significant percentage of the GDP.

Foreign trade deficit makes the separation between the upper and lower classes much worse, especially at this level. Foreign trade causes a lot more than lower wages and unemployment, it causes loss of know-how and dismantles the critical infrastructure.

Rest assured that China's trade surplus with the US for decades actually caused the life standards of the Chinese middle class to improve year after year: their salaries have gone up, not down like in the US.

bob sykes said at February 2, 2016 6:10 AM:

The working class has it even worse, far, far worse.

In order to reverse the ongoing, continuing decline in real wages for both middle class and working class people, you have to adopt a protectionist trade stance with strict quotas on imports and you have to stop immigration. The current policies of free trade, globalization and open borders will eventually destroy our economy and turn us into a typical Latin American hell hole.

Check it out said at February 2, 2016 4:37 PM:

Yes, that's the point I've making for years. And it goes beyond just parties. The whole system is in decay, becuase it is run by politicians, corporate owners and religious ministers who are the parasites of any society. They live off the people turning in nothing of real value.

Politicians will not solve any of today's problems simply because they are not trained to solve any problems. Even if they wanted -which is doubtful- they can't. Politicians are politicians precisely because they are worthless at everything. There are no real skills among these lowlifes.

Corporate owners are the ones who own the place by producing and selling us garbage that is bad for our bodies and bad for our minds. They finance all presidential candidates. Presidents are nothing else than a product of the corporations they are in bed with. Corporate owners will always get the laws changed as they see fit whenever they feel like it.

Religious ministers... well, let's just say that whoever still believes in these idiots is an ever bigger idiot, cause God doesn't exist, and if God really existed, he should be put to death, after his record of attrocities.

william said at February 2, 2016 9:14 PM:

During a period of unemployment last year, I discovered my four children qualified for full Medicaid coverage (not my wife or I though). I signed them up and received about six weeks of free MRIs, asthma prescriptions, and a few eye exams with free glasses. No co-pays, no deductibles. Qualification was based on income, not assets, and the most recent modification in 2012 is what put my kids on the qualification list. I was back to work at week 7 or 8, then declared my new income to the Medicaid office. They informed me my children remained covered for a minimum of six months according to the law.

Dr. Doom said at February 5, 2016 11:34 AM:

Hurting the White middle class is destroying the system. How long will the lights stay on, the food be delivered and law be enforced? All these things you take for granted are there because of White Men, and without us, you and the system will find out that Mad Max isn't living in a Post-Apocalyptic World because of Nuclear War or a Natural Disaster, but because White Men aren't running the Government. Anarchy and chaos where ruthless immoral gangs rob and rape freely is pretty much the rest of the World except Western Civilization, built and maintained by White Men.

william said at February 13, 2016 6:01 AM:

@DrDoom: Atlas Shrugged in the real world.

James Bowery said at March 8, 2016 7:56 AM:

John Robb: "Collapse can be quick..."

If I were among the technorati (and I may well be identified as such) I would be very vocally supporting replacement of taxes on economic activity with an insurance premium for property rights assessed as liquidation value, replacing the welfare state and warfare state with a mutual insurance company dividend paid out to a Swiss style militia sworn to protect property rights against loss due to force and fraud.

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