Both Joel Kotkin and David Brooks seem to be struggling with this issue. They agree that middle America is in trouble. But who are we talking about? Kotkin writes,
Since Obama's inauguration all the economic statistics vital to their lives--job creation, family income, housing prices--have been stagnant or negative. Not surprising then that suburbanites, small businesspeople and middle-income workers walked out on the Democrats last night. They did not do so because they loved the Republicans but because the majority either fears unemployment or already have lost their jobs. Many were employed in the industries such as manufacturing and construction hardest hit in the recession; it has not escaped their attention that Obama's public-sector allies, paid with their taxes, have remained not only largely unscathed, but much better compensated.
The Midwest has lost a manufacturing empire but hasn't yet found a role.
So is the middle American a small businessman? A manufacturing or construction worker?
Kotkin says that there are 50 million households (note--households, not individuals) with incomes between $50,000 and $150,000 a year. I think that is a good working model of the middle American.
Even five years ago, manufacturing production lines and construction were not big enough to account for a major share of these households. If I were to come up with a stereotypical middle American, the occupations that where I would expect to find them would be:
--allied health professionals (nursing assistants, dental assistants, etc.) At the low end, these folks would have to be part of two-income families to make the middle income threshold.
--in offices, doing work that supports company infrastructure--human resources, information technology, marketing communications, supervision of front-line employees.
Fifty years ago, you might have described the median American worker as working on an assembly line. I do not think that you can do that today. My guess is that the median American worker does something that a technocrat in Washington could not do without months or years of training. The technocrats are trying to apply "stimulus" to an economy that has grown far too complex for them to understand.
What do you think of when you think of the occupation of a worker in the median American household