Why So Worried About the Decline of the `Middle Class`?

I have never understood what gets politicians and pundits so bent regarding the ‘shrinking middle class.’ First, no one has ever explained why that would be a bad thing but, more importantly, no one seems to understand that it is an inevitable consequence of human behavior; something about which the politicians can do nothing.

Economic mobility

Assuming that ‘middle class’ is an economic designation, in a free country we should WANT people to have the opportunity to move from one economic level to another. Preferably, the move is up… from ‘lower class’ to ‘middle class,’ and from there to ‘upper class.’ I know that there are those who consider the ‘upper class’ to be no less than devils incarnate, but it’s incredibly disingenuous and hypocritical to claim to be a friend of the ‘lower class’ yet despise the rich and successful:

“I want you, you ‘lower class’ person, to move up (with the help of my incredibly costly government program, usually)… but, just like the ‘upper class’ I want to limit your prosperity… I don’t want you to be so successful that you become ‘upper class’… In fact, if you become ‘upper class,’ I will do everything that I can to bust you back down to ‘middle class’.”

(As a side note… doesn’t it speak to the inadequacy of government welfare and assistance programs that they are designed to help the ‘lower class’ move up and, yet, the ‘middle class’ is still shrinking?)

I guess you could claim that a ‘shrinking middle class’ is a bad thing because it means that Americans are “suffering” economically… dropping out of ‘middle’ into ‘lower.’ But it could just as easily mean that people are moving up as well. Economic mobility means that people are moving out of the ‘middle class’ in both directions, potentially causing it to shrink. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Inevitability

Ever heard anyone complain that “the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer”? The phrase is used to describe a less-than-optimal state of affairs but, in fact, it simply describes an inevitability rooted in human nature.

The rich keep getting richer because the rich continue to do the things that made them rich. Likewise, the poor keep getting poorer because they continue to do the things that made them poor.

It is a truth that if the rich began to do the things that make people poor, they will become poorer. Conversely, as soon as the poor begin doing the things that made people rich, they will become richer.

As people do the things that make people rich, they move from ‘lower class’ to ‘middle class’, then, if they continue, from ‘middle class’ to ‘upper class.’ The opposite is also true.

Because people are always doing things that make them either rich or poor, and because those things are usually the results of a lifestyle or mindset, people are always on an inevitable path to one pole or the other. The ‘middle class’ becomes not a destination but a point to pass through… and the middle shrinks as people do the things that they do.

As I alluded to earlier, it is the epitome of hubris for politicians to lament the ‘shrinking middle class’ as if they could do something about it. No amount of government handout will help one move from ‘lower class’ to ‘middle class’ if the recipient is predisposed to spend the money on booze and cigarettes instead of investment and education.

Ideally, the ‘middle class’ should shrink to extinction as all become rich and prosperous as a result of their hard work and good decisions. We all know that that is not going to happen so, while I would love for the ‘middle class’ to disappear, the truth is that while it might shrink or grow, the ‘middle class’ is not going to disappear.

Quit worrying about it…. except when a politician tries to use the ‘shrinking middle class’ argument to justify another government program or limitation on your ability… to leave the middle class.