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Growing the Middle Class   December 21st, 2008
Is this really an important goal?       


More observations...

It was reported today that Vice President-elect Joe Biden will lead a task force on expanding the middle class. But is expanding the middle class really a reasonable goal?


Vice President-elect Joe Biden will oversee a task force that will make recommendations on how to build the ranks of the middle class, that ambiguously defined segment of society in which most Americans identify themselves.

Biden said the task force will include other Cabinet members and it will present President-elect Barack Obama with a package of proposals designed to ensure the middle class is "no longer being left behind."

Biden said the measure of economic success in an Obama administration would be whether the middle class was growing. He said Obama planned to announce the formation of the task force later Sunday.

This seems to me to be an inherently flawed goal, and subject to political spin.

Growing the middle class is not necessarily a good thing. If the growth in the middle class is caused by people falling out of the upper class, that's economic failure. Economic success only exists if the middle class is expanded by pulling people up from the lower class, and economic success exists if the upper class is expanded by pulling people up from the middle class. In both cases this is measured by watching the size of the lower class and upper class, not the middle class.

In fact, we'd be experiencing extremely successful economics if the middle class stayed exactly the same--but the upper class grew by the same amount the lower class shrunk. This would mean the number of people that went from lower to middle was the same as went from middle to upper. And that'd be a great thing even though the size of the middle class stayed exactly the same!

We should not be concerned about the size of middle class but rather trying to grow the upper class because that means people that were in the middle class were able to do better and join the ranks of the upper class. The success of policies targeted at the middle class are measured by growth in the upper class.

And the spin is that if they are trying to expand the middle class then obviously their policies aren't really targeted at those that already are in the middle class. You can't expand the middle class by assisting those that already are there. Rather, if you want to expand the middle class you either have to help the poor work their way up or have to punish the rich so they fall down. That means their cliched phrase "ensure the middle class is 'no longer being left behind'" is not compatible with their rhetoric since, once again, the middle class is being ignored--rather the attention will be making the upper class poorer and/or the lower class richer. The middle class is ignored.

This goes back to liberal economic theory which has a socialistic skew. If you can make everyone earn exactly the median income (that is precisely middle class), you've effectively achieved socialism since everyone earns the same amount. You can do this by making "expanding the middle class" the goal and then shrinking the range that defines the middle class until you gradually work towards everyone making as close to the median as possible. Then "equality"--in the mind of liberals--is achieved.

This goal goes further to illustrate the liberal mindset in that most Americans don't strive to be "middle class." Most of us want to be rich. Granted, there are poor people that would settle for being middle class, but very few children (and probably not too many poor or middle class adults) would say they want to be "middle class and famous." No, they want to be rich and famous.

The goal of expanding the middle class is a goal of mediocrity. Apparently Biden (and the Obama administration he is a part of) wants as many people to be as mediocre as possible. I submit that's a flawed goal and inherently uninspiring. We Americans strive for excellence, not mediocrity.

I would measure economic success by evaluating whether the number of poor decreases or the number of rich increase... or both. But trying to measure success by measuring the number of people that have achieved mediocrity is a rather uninspiring goal... and potentially just political smoke and mirrors that make the middle class think the government is thinking of them when really the government is instituting policies to prop up the poor and/or punish the rich: The two things that will increase the size of the middle class.

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