What Happened to the Middle?

No, I’m not talking about the TV show. I’m talking about the middle class, the middle of the road politics/politicians, the middle. We live in a society of extremes. You’re either lumped into one extreme or another. These extremes being forced onto us lead us to argue with one another instead of finding the common ground.

Let’s take a look at the term middle class. Google Dictionary™ provides the definition of middle class as: noun – the social group between the upper and working classes, including professional and business workers and their families. Okay so that should classify most people, right? And yes, according to the US Census of 2010 most Americans fall in the income levels of middle class, with the median income at $50,054. Reportedly, the classification of the poverty level was $18,000 – $23,050 per year for a family of 4. For the middle classes, the bottom of the lower-middle class (aka working class) in the $23,050 – $32,500 range, the lower middle class is in the range of $32,500 – $60,000, and the upper middle class (noted as male-dominated) falls into the $100,000 – $150,000 bracket. The upper class has 2 designations: top 5% has an income of $150,000 to $250,000 per year and the top 1% has an income of $250,000 per year or more. Please note that there is no designation for anyone with an income below $18,000 per year. (http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0912/which-income-class-are-you.aspx)

According to the above referenced article, in 2008 the average taxpayer was reporting an income of $33,000 which was $400 less than in 1988. The middle class has stayed stagnant while the upper class income has increased 33% in the same time period. As the old saying goes, the rich get richer…

The other important thing to note is with the middle class incomes staying stagnant over the past couple of decades, the cost of living has continued to climb. This has made it more difficult for someone earning $33,000 per year to be able to afford day to day living – keeping a roof over their heads, food on the table, etc. I have read numerous articles that have reported these same findings. So, yes, the middle class by definition may still exist, but their income does not go as far as it once did.

Now what about politics? Historically speaking, the pendulum tends to go far left to far right before coming back to the middle. We just are coming out of the far left and are now swinging to the far right. So, given my previous statement, our next round of leaders should be somewhere in the middle of the two extremes.

I’m sure some of you will scream that our former president was not far left, while others will argue that he was as far left as you can get. Our current president is by no question far right, no matter how he may have started out in his campaign. For someone like me – very middle of the road in political views – this has been a challenging time. In addition, it has caused numerous people to end friendships, families to split up, and a general attitude of US vs THEM. Divided because our two major political parties have swung to the extremes.

I have personally been attacked in social media and in person because I tried to stay middle of the road. What I don’t understand is when middle of the road became a bad thing. Merriam-Webster defines middle of the road politics as standing for or following a course of action midway between extremes; especially : being neither liberal nor conservative in politics.

Prior to 2016, most people seemed to fall in the middle of the road classification – at least in my estimation. This past presidential election has forced the middle of the road people to choose a side. We didn’t have a candidate in any of the parties on the ticket that one would designate as middle of the road. Our country had spoken in extremes during the primaries, therefore we had to choose. Then the vilification of each side became the norm.

In January 2017, you are no longer allowed to classify yourself as middle of the road. You are either liberal or a conservative – both currently in extreme states. You are no longer allowed to try and understand the other side’s point of view. You must align yourself fully on one side or the other or you will be ripped to shreds for trying to stay in the middle. People who used to be open to listen to another person’s views now will berate that person for their views. People make assumptions about each other just because they may try to be understanding of someone or something that is currently classified as belonging to “THEM” and become irate and belligerent towards that person.

Our country is divided – rich vs poor, liberal vs conservative, US vs THEM. Until we take back the middle, this country will suffer. All of us suffer when extremes are the norm.

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