I am often amused (and somewhat dismayed) by the left’s constant refrain about “working class” people, “the middle class”, and so on. As far as I’m concerned, we don’t have “classes” in this country—at least not the way they do in other countries.
In the UK, for example, one’s class is of utmost importance and it’s really quite rare for someone to move from one class into another. Yet social class isn’t just about income—although that’s often a big factor. It’s more about who you are, where you were educated, what accent you have, and so on.
In the U.S., however, the left tend to use the word “class” as if it means merely an income grouping. And even there, they are wrong, since their view is static—assuming that people don’t move from one income group to another. But that’s wrong, as shown by the following quotes from an article in the National Tax Journal by Gerald Auten and Geoffrey Gee:
- There was considerable income mobility of individuals in the U.S. economy over the 1996-2005 period. More than half of taxpayers…moved to a different income quintile over this period. About half…of those in the bottom income quintile in 1996 moved to a higher income group by 2005.
- Median incomes of taxpayers in the sample increased by 24 percent after adjusting for inflation. The real incomes of two-thirds of all taxpayers increased over this period. Furthermore, the median incomes of those initially in the lowest income groups increased more in percentage terms than the median incomes of those in the higher income groups. In contrast, the real median incomes of taxpayers who were in the highest income groups in 1996 declined by 2005.
- The composition of the very top income groups changed dramatically over time. Less than half (39 percent or 42 percent depending on the measure) of those in the top 1 percent in 1996 were still in the top 1 percent in 2005. Less than one-fourth of the individuals in the top 1/100th percent in 1996 remained in that group in 2005.
In short, most of the arguments from the left are completely wrong. Even if, as they claim, the “rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer” as groups, they are NOT the same individuals.
So why does the left make these spurious (and often irrelevant) arguments?
It’s hard to conclude that it’s anything other than the old tried-and-true tactic of “class warfare.” In this mythical view of the country, President Obama and the leftists see America as a battle of classes involved in a zero-sum game for wealth.
But wealth isn’t a zero-sum game; wealth can be created. And we’ve already shown that the whole way that they group individuals into classes is deeply flawed. So, in short, the whole “class” thing is just another tactic the left tries to use to gain or maintain power, even though the argument and the facts behind it are rubbish.