Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Searching For The Middle Class

What do the following jobs have in common?
Municipal purchasing director
High school guidance counselor
Registered nurse
Real estate broker
All are now "working-class" occupations. So says this NY Times article on racehorse investors.

To find today's middle class perhaps we have to raise our sights. Some big-city professionals making $300,000-$400,000 or more feel financially pressured and want to keep their Bush tax cut. Are they middle class, or merely upper working class?

Maybe we should look higher still, to The Middle-Class Millionaire. Financially speaking, people with investable assets of $5 million or $10 million might better be called lower upper class. Whatever you call them, writes James Surowiecki in The New Yorker, they have reason to envy the rich … and the very rich … and the unbelievably rich. Surowiecki illustrates in terms of income:
People in the ninety-fifth to the ninety-ninth percentiles of income have represented a fairly constant share of the national income for twenty-five years now. But in that period the top one per cent has seen its share of national income double; in 2007, it captured twenty-three per cent of the nation’s total income. Even within the top one per cent, income is getting more concentrated: the top 0.1 per cent of earners have seen their share of national income triple over the same period. All by themselves, they now earn as much as the bottom hundred and twenty million people. So at the same time that the rich have been pulling away from the middle class, the very rich have been pulling away from the pretty rich, and the very, very rich have been pulling away from the very rich.
Taxation traditionally pits the have-nots against the haves. This time feels different. Soon the lame duck Congress will restart the debate over income tax cuts and the existence of the estate tax. Even the have-a-lots may be envious enough to agitate for heavier taxes on the have-it-alls. More than likely, the argument will continue to rage when the new Congress convenes

Marketing note: “Middle class” is a state of mind, not a status measured by income or wealth. You can't assume that one $5-million prospect is like another. Some are proud of their rise from rags to riches and expect you to kowtow. Others may insist on being treated like just plain folks. Middle class folks.

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