American identity, cultural absurdity, el's rabbit trails

A quick note about this “middle class” business.

We live in a pretty nice house. We have a few dollars in the bank. My husband makes enough money that I can focus on our home and the education of our children, but we are far from rich. We’re certainly not upper middle class, and I use that term only as the verbiage common to most Americans. Based on the markers most political/media types use as current indicators, I suppose we qualify as solidly “middle class”.

When you factor in the fact that should we ever decide to abandon the urban/technological rat race and move to the boonies, we could actually do that on land we don’t have to pay a dime for (my husband is a descendant of people who had the good sense to purchase land and the temerity to hang on to it), we might actually qualify as truly middle class. I don’t know and I don’t know that it really matters. Maybe,  but probably not, given the realities of how we have structured our financial life. Note that I said we “live in a pretty nice house”, not that we own it. Funny how we don’t rent, but don’t actually own, yet are classified as “homeowners”.

In any event, I ran across this little ditty by way of a friend, and although there is plenty in this piece that I might take exception to if I were so inclined (I’m not), this part pretty well sums up the reality of the so-called “American middle class:.

The American middle class has now been liquidated, except for a few remnants that are found here and there and are tolerated because they have no vestige of political power and will soon disappear anyway. A middle class can be based only on property — on the secure possession of real property of which a man can be divested only by his own folly. A middle class cannot be formed of comparatively well-paid proletarians who may have a theoretical equity in a hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollar house they are “buying” on a thirty-five year mortgage, and in a fifteen-thousand-dollar automobile for which they will not have paid before they “trade it in” on a more expensive and defective vehicle. Nor can it be formed of proletarians whose wives have to work — whether as “executives” or as charwomen — to “make ends meet.” With the exception of relicts who live on investments that have not yet been entirely confiscated by taxation, the economic revolution is as complete in the United States as in Soviet Russia: there are only proletarians, some of whom are hired to manage the rest. Managerial employees get more pay and ulcers than janitors and coal miners, but they are equally dependent on their wages and even more dependent on the favor of the employee above them. The nearest approximation to a middle class, both here and in Russia, is the bureaucracy…

So pardon me if I don’t get all misty-eyed or politically worked up at the very mention of the so-called “middle class”. Like so many other things in this world of  virtual reality, it’s not a real thing. At least not for the vast majority who cling to the term as a way to make them feel better about not being “lower class”. I rather like the term “working class” myself. It denotes people that are actually doing something. That’s my cue to close the laptop, but I thought this was worth sharing.


3 thoughts on “A quick note about this “middle class” business.”

  1. My husband and I own 2 homes outright (still have to pay taxes of course) and have 2 rental properties that will soon be mortgage free. Our goal is financial independence for ourselves and our children and I think that we will get there. My parents and my husband’s parents own a lot of land, but I don’t know that we would retire and live in such a rural area. I prefer walkable neighborhoods or to be only a 5 or 10 minute drive away from civilization at most. I think of myself as middle class, but when you look at income, assets we are upper middle class. I try to be honest about this because delusions and lies about these things are harmful.

    The typical black economic situation and black political beliefs can be partially blamed on so many black people believing that they are poor or middle class in the same way that many white people are when in fact they are much worse off.

    I agree with that quote about the middle class, and the principles behind it for the most part. However, in the real world, “middle class” is more about quality of life. Many of the black people who have been deliberately excluded from the middle class can’t afford good health care, quality education, safe neighborhoods or reliable transportation while other people benefit from their dysfunction, poverty and suffering. So while I understand your disagreement on principle, again, that is easy to do from the comfort of the middle class. I will always get worked up about people who are suffering.


  2. While you have been getting worked up, my family and I have been doing actual work in poor communities and serving the homeless countless numbers of hours over the past decade. And counting…

    Spare me the tsk tsk. You have no idea what I think about people suffering.


  3. That wasn’t a “tsk-tsk.” You mentioned your volunteer work before and I hadn’t forgotten. We also donate our time and money to the poor on a regular basis. That is, or should be, a normal part of Christian life.

    I am frustrated that so many people believe that poverty is usually the result of the poor person’s immorality or stupidity when that is clearly not the case.

    Generally speaking, black people get lectures on lofty conservative principles that have little bearing on reality and shamed for their poverty while white people get the “functional welfare” that TPC mentioned in the other thread. The impact of that can be seen in most black communities.


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