Are you middle class?
A little over two years ago, as Barack Obama took the oath of office for the second time, he alluded to the American Dream—the idea that this is a land of opportunity where anyone can rise economically to home ownership and economic security. “We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship.”
As the nation continues to recover slowly from the recession of 2008, politicians today apparently are engaging in the rhetoric of diminished expectations. The New York Times today is reporting that politicians of both major parties are shunning the term “middle class” as they struggle to find ways to appeal to voters. The phrases ranged from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “everyday Americans” to Ted Cruz’s ”hard working men and women across America.”
The once ubiquitous term “middle class” has gone conspicuously missing from the 2016 campaign trail, as candidates and their strategists grasp for new terms for an unsettled economic era. The phrase, long synonymous with the American dream, now evokes anxiety, an uncertain future and a lifestyle that is increasingly out of reach.
The move away from “middle class” is the rhetorical result of a critical shift: After three decades of income gains favoring the highest earners and job growth being concentrated at the bottom of the pay scale, the middle has for millions of families become a precarious place to be.