As social classes lack clear boundaries and overlap there are no definite income thresholds as for what is considered middle class. Sociologist Leonard Beeghley identifies a male making $57,000 and a female making $40,000 with a combined household’s income of $97,000 as a typical middle-class family. Sociologists William Thompson and Joseph Hickey estimate an income range of roughly $35,000 to $75,000 for the lower middle class and $100,000 or more for the upper middle class. Many social scientists, including economist Michael Zweig and sociologist Dennis Gilbert, contend that middle class persons usually have above median incomes. (from wikipedia.org)
You've Got a Friend - Carole King
When you're down and troubled and you need a helping hand
and nothing, whoa, nothing is going right.
Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there to brighten up even your darkest nights.
The middle class seems to have found friends in both political parties' presidential candidates. President Obama and Governor Romney have both expressed their concern for the fate of the middle class. They of course point the finger of blame in different directions, but they both say they care - what more could we ask? And they both are making all sorts of promises which, when I listen to them, make me want to break out singing “ . . . all you have to do is call (read: vote) and I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah, the middle class seem to have some really important friends these days. Nice to know as one who, according to whatever definition you choose, certainly is middle class. Believe me, I do need friends. Even though I have over 1,500 of them on Facebook, I do need a couple of friends in high places. And I do share a concern for the shrinking of the middle class and even more about the growing disparity between the wealthy and, as they say, the other 99%. (This is a side bar, but it does need to be pointed out that in terms of much of the rest of the world most Americans are the 1%.)
But that reality does not negate the reality that the middle class is struggling. And I share the concern of my powerful friends on the campaign trail. But my heart aches more for those who were never middle class, or who long ago left that estate, or who are one pay check - one divorce decree – one disease diagnosis – one pink slip away from falling below whatever imaginary line cuts through the middle and lower class. A lot of talk this season by our political “friends” is about the American dream and how great that dream is, and how it is apparently available to anyone, which also makes us great. But as Langston Hughes reminds us the dream remains for too many only a dream, while reality can be a nightmare. Hughes’ words pierce my heart and call on me to stand with – work with – lobby for - those for whom “America never was America" and for those for whom the America described in the dream is no longer.
So, my political friends, I appreciate the support. Don’t think for a moment I don’t appreciate your concern. But please, please don’t come running. I am doing ok, all things considered. I would rather hear you widen your concern beyond the middle. I would rather hear you promise to “let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed” - not just for the middle class - but for all people.
An excerpt from "Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes:
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!
Peter Wells is the Associate Conference Minister serving churches and clergy in the Central and Hampshire Assocations and the Coordinator of Mission and Justice programs.