Middle Class? Fat Chance!
The bad news is the American middle class is shrinking. The worse news is the average American’s middle is growing. At the same time incomes are going down, waistlines are going up.
The Pew Research Center crunched Census Bureau numbers and found in 203 out of 229 metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, the percentage of households qualifying as “middle class” fell since the turn of the millennium.
In places like Midland, Texas, it’s actually good news.
In Midland, the middle-class has gotten smaller thanks to an energy boom that pushed more households into the “upper-class” categories. However, for every Midland, there’s a Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Springfield, Ohio, where the loss of manufacturing jobs has shoved once solidly middle-class Americans into poverty.
If this isn’t depressing enough, the Center for Disease Control reports the average American male now clocks in at 195 pounds as opposed to our “Mad Men” fathers in 1960, who weighed a svelte 166 pounds.
Today’s woman weighs — to the pound — what yesterday’s man weighed. At 140 pounds, a gal in 1960 was 26 pounds lighter than the 2016 edition.
Depressed yet? I’ve got more.
Scientists have determined our attention spans today are now equal to that of goldfish, a fleeting 8 seconds, which I suppose, goes a long way to explaining Donald Trump.
Intuitively, we sense things are heading in the wrong direction: our incomes, our waistlines, the whole damn world seems to be headed to hell in a Hyperloop handbasket. Both Trump and Bernie Sanders have glommed onto this national dread, with Trump riding it all the way to the GOP nomination.
Cops are now the robbers, priests are predators, a baker who won’t make a cake for a gay wedding is a villain but a rock star who won’t perform a concert for an entire state is a hero. We find ourselves embroiled in a giant controversy over who can and can’t use the women’s restroom, while college students demand safe spaces and trigger warnings on great works of literature. Our kids are sexting pictures of their private parts to their friends. Any wonder why so many folks find themselves scratching their skulls wondering where this is headed?
The answer, whether we like it or not, is the future.
As crazy as today’s world might be, consider the road we’ve already traveled.
On an early July morning in 1776 millions of British subjects living in His Majesty’s 13 North American colonies woke to the news a handful of men in Philadelphia had decided they were now citizens of a new country. Talk about confusion.
In the 1860s changes came in such rapid succession it led to secession.
The 1920s ushered in the Jazz Age, women’s suffrage and the commingling of African-American musicians with young white city dwellers swilling illegal gin. As stock prices rose, so did the hemlines on women’s skirts. Our great-grandparents were not amused.
Replace gin with LSD and you have the 1960s.
Yet, every era of social upheaval in American history has produced a more inclusive, stronger, better country.
In his brilliant Civil War memoirs, Ulysses Grant wrote, “The South was more to be benefited by its defeat than the North.” Few Southerners would have agreed when those words were published in 1885. Few would not agree today.
I have no idea if the middle class will ever rebound or how much the average American will weigh by 2060. I don’t know which bathroom my great-grandchildren will pee in.
I do know Americans will continue to stumble forward, shaping and reshaping our world to accommodate new ideas and new values.
The past doesn’t get a vote.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekdays 5-10 on AM 790. He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.