The Death (and Rebirth) of the Middle Class

american middle classIt’s been well covered, but in this first article of the year, let’s take a look at the collapse of this most important segment of society.

The American middle class is fast disappearing, not because there is anything particularly wrong with the people involved – they are every bit as talented as their parents and grandparents were – but because the ruling class of the United States has pushed them into this position.

This middle class was once composed of proud and productive people… the kind who now exist primarily in advertisements for trucks. These people and their abilities remain, but Washington has taken power over nearly every choice they have and thinks of them only for the purposes of voting, fighting in wars, and creating more debt (aka buying stuff they don’t need).

These people are at a crossroads, facing fundamental choices about who they are and what they will be. The big threat in front of them is that by not stopping, thinking, and choosing (and it’s always easier to do nothing), they’ll stay on the path that has been grinding them into the dirt.

The Fall of the Middle Class in 60 Seconds

The first wave that undercut the American middle class hit roughly one hundred years ago, stripping away their surplus with income taxes, sales taxes, and debt-based money. This continues, transferring wealth from working people to governments and central bankers.

Older members of the American middle class will remember that small, self-employed farmers were once the backbone of the culture. These family businesses are now all but gone. Large farms remain, of course, but they have become, effectively, partners of the government and giant corporations. Gaps and exceptions remain, but the classic American farming family exists mainly on the fringes.

Self-employed people – shop-owners, mechanics, and so on – were another old American staple, and they are vanishing too, as you can see in this graph:

american middle class

The modern refuge for productive Americans was in manufacturing. But even manufacturing is dying in America. In 1977, there were nearly 20 million manufacturing jobs. Today – and with a much higher population – there are less than 12 million manufacturing jobs. (See graph below.)

 american middle class

Service jobs are fine, but there are not enough of them. And because of overwhelming demand, they pay poorly.

The Replacement Bubble

There has been one area in which young Americans could find both employment and lavish praise, and that has been as cogs in the military-industrial complex.

But regardless of the worship services that begin every sporting event, this cultural bubble is starting to deflate. The great surge of 9/11 has subsided and new wars have been difficult to sell. We have passed peak military-industrial complex, and the reflexive worship of intelligence agencies is passing as well. (Thank you again, Edward Snowden.)

In addition, traditional Americans are starting to wonder how their Christianity became a war religion. Red State Christianity is a kingdom divided against itself. War is simply not a Jesus thing, and state worship is definitely not a Jesus thing. So, when these churches encourage Bible reading, they sow the seeds of their own undoing. Young believers will soon be quoting scriptures against the “leaders” and walking away.

Thirdly, thousands of returning soldiers are discouraging their friends and neighbors from running off to “the glories of war.” People who have been in it know that war is horrifying and damaging. They are providing a lot of personal evidence of this, either by their words or by their (sadly common) debilitating injuries and suicides.

The number of jobs available in this replacement bubble are fading, and the glory of them is fading as well.

Go Corporate or Go Rogue

Consider the situation that faces the American middle class: The old ways are almost gone. The replacement that was sold to them kills or damages them and is vanishing anyway. The welfare life beckons, featuring free stuff and permanent dependence, but that’s not really their way – these people were raised on a healthy production ethic.

But what else stands in front of them? As the number of “good jobs” continues to decline, what realistic options do they have?

The approved choice is to go corporate: Take a menial job at Walmart, Starbucks, or McDonalds, take a side-job or two to survive, and slowly work your way up through management.

Or, if you have the appropriate university certificates (which come with crushing debt), you can be hired by a mega-corp – an oil company, or a tech company, or perhaps by government itself. We all know what happens in these places: Human character is warped, and the corporate script takes over all your life. You end up living of the corp, by the corp, and for the corp.

The one remaining choice is to go rogue. By that I mean to separate from the system, stop seeking its approval, and to live the life of an outsider.

Some Americans are already choosing the rogue life, of course. Every time they homeschool their children, grow their own food, trade via barter or Bitcoin, start 3D printing, or join an intentional community and accept people calling them weird, they are resigning from the mass culture and going rogue.

This is the oldest of American traditions, of course – the one chosen by every person who got on a boat between 1600 and 1900 and sailed off to a new continent. But this way of thinking hasn’t been popular in a long time. Conformity with the mass culture reigns, and separating from it requires considerable strength of character.

What Comes Next?

Over the next decade or so, traditional, middle class Americans will have to choose.

Many will go the corporate route and accept its slow self-punishment. Some will eventually drop out of this game and join the rogues, but others will live the corporation’s pre-scripted lives, then die.

Or, they can join the welfare class and explore new opportunities in degradation.

But if they can build their own courage and walk away from game, they will help to rebuild a confident civilization with a bright future.

My guess is that the once-productive American middle class is already starting to wake up. Each new disappointment drives more of them to go rogue and to start building a better future – their kind of future – not the one that is sold to them by Washington, New York, and Hollywood.

And that is the most encouraging thing of all.

Paul Rosenberg

21 thoughts on “The Death (and Rebirth) of the Middle Class”

  1. There is another option available to the North American productive class – leave North America. Over 7,000,000 US citizens currently live and work in other parts of the world. Many of these alternative nations still welcome and encourage small businesses and family farms. Some, like Chile have almost no national debt and booming economies.

    As the US continues to overplay its authority around the world, thousands of citizens each year turn in their US Passport and surrender citizenship. Who can blame them?

    I’l be documenting my 13,200 mile road-trip from the Great Lakes to South America this year to demonstrate how reg’lar folks are able to re-take control of their future by leaving the States. You can follow my efforts at:

    The Boot-Strap Expat

    1. Maybe I’ll write about that at some point… Some hard-earned experience there too. :/

  2. Two points:

    1) Many people confuse the middle class with the working class. Distinction should be made.

    2) I am one of the middle class you describe in the article. I have the corporate life (utterly degrading for now) but am using that as an means to the end I desire.
    We are homeschooling children of character. I have purchased a farm and we are becoming self-sufficient. Our rights are not granted by the constitution, but affirmed by it. We are children of God and know where our blessings come from.

    Thought for the day:
    If marriage is not an important institution, why do most computer security systems offer ‘you mothers maiden name’ as a means to validate identity?

    1. Hi Johnny, comments on your points:

      1. I try to, by using “productive class.”
      2. Yeah, it’s a complex world and we all make the moves that work for us within that mix. I deeply respect what you and your family are doing. Thank you.

  3. Acting as if working for a living for a corporation is degrading is imho part of the problem. There are false dichotomies here or was it trichotomies. Many of the top people in corporation land do not have fancy degrees. Neither do many of the people doing work within them. If you don’t like welfare or working for someone else then build your own company. It can still be done. Particularly if you can gain a bit of mastery over software tech or partner who someone who has it and are a bit creative.

  4. What is most needed is a real deep understanding of freedom. That has almost disappeared. Without that the rest does not much matter.

  5. Thanks for writing this.

    Too many are already willing to rush into battle, as though the problem were the people in the positions of power, rather than the social structure that demanded such positions of unaccountable power. They mistake the positions of those of us who are older, who have been in wars, for lack of courage, capability, or commitment.

    Not so.

    The lesson that winning the war is only the first and easiest step is a hard won and expensive lesson, not to be discarded lightly. The battle for the peace is the more difficult endeavor.

    With any struggle, certainly any military struggle, and absolutely any social struggle, the ultimate victory is decided in the preparation.

    Those who would change the social compact must win three battles:
    -They must win the bondage
    -They must win the war for dominance
    -They must win the peace and conquer the moral weakness resulting from success.

    And to be sure, people are not yet ready to be free. The social compacts necessary remain largely undesigned – hardly more than rough outlines. And a large portion of most people’s thinking of social interaction revolves around abdicating responsibility to a strongman or directly employing overt coercion to interact with their neighbors.

    How sad! None of it was ever necessary!

    Until hearts and instincts change, any violent clash will result in failure- no matter who wins the immediate battle.

    Wake up! Wake up! Remember who your Great Grandparents were!

    1. Thanks, Gordon. Good post.

      Many people cling to the external battle because the inner battles are more demanding. But in the end, the inner changes are the ones that matter.

    2. It is true that victors write history and that is what is passed on to our students in government run public schools and students in various colleges.WAR EMPIRE And The MILITARY/Essays On The Follies And U.S. Foreign Policy by Laurence M. Vance and ROUGE STATE: A Guide to the Worlds Only Superpower by William Blum. I am at the present time reading THE RULING ELITE:THE ZIONIST SEIZURE OF WORLD POWER by Denna Spingola. This book is about so much more than Zionism. After reading this book you will wonder is there any hope for America and the world.Every government lies to its people in order to control them but no government has lied to its people more than our government has to us. If only more citizens had taken the time to read and research for themselves instead of listening to and watching the government fed propaganda. The National Literacy Survey reported that 23% of adults in the U.S. are functionally illiterate. those who think that socialist and communist haven’t taken control of America as well as Zionist are just fooling themselves. This has come about because of ignorance and indifference by millions of U.S. citizens over a period of time. Various forms of entertainment was more important to millions rather than what was happening in the White House and congress. True,we do have our daily lives to consider but we are still responsible for the type of government leadership we have. Maybe, once every four years some take notice. James A. Garfield put the blame where is should have been placed. On the people.Both socialist and communist leaders even told America how they would take control of America.

      1. ~~ After you finish Spingola’s The Ruling Elite, spend some time in the Bible. The Old Testament gives a fine example of what we’re going thru now, as America continues to mock, ignore, or reject God from our individual and corporate lives.
        The book of Revelation provides us with an understanding of the struggle between Jesus’ Church — no, not the UNholy Roman catholic church, the Jews, Islam, or any protestant McChurches — and the world systems that were active even in Apostle John’s day….

  6. “Service jobs are fine, but there are not enough of them. And because of overwhelming demand, they pay poorly.”

    I think you mean “overwhelming supply [of workers].”

  7. I enjoy your writings, Paul, but with all due respect, you don’t know crap about farming, or who’s doing it. Yes, the govt is in farming up to their armpits with no more motivation than to control farmers and the food supply. I have 7 members of the family and countless friends that farm, ranch, etc. They all have been through good times and bad, the recent few being good. Yes, all farm under the entity of a corporation – usually an LLC or LLP. We operate a total of 800 acres in Iowa and Illinois under two separate LLCs. The only reason for this is the same for ALL small businesses – the tax code of the US of A. The farm community I know is 100 percent family farmed and family owned. Almost all operate secondary businesses of hold additional jobs. Maybe 30 % of the farm wives are at home raising kids, but also are integral to the operation in all aspects – from heavy equipment to livestock, and bookkeeping.
    Yes, I’m familiar with Tyson, Smithdale, and other big corporate farms, but they represent a small part of our farming community.
    I’d like to hear more noise about flat taxes – mostly to keep the career politicians from using the code as “PORK” to pander to whomever they are trying to gain favor .
    Secondly, I’d like to hear a lot more noise about TERM LIMITS, and no benefits for those elected. Only when we quit sending people to Washington to become millionaires will we see government start to get smaller and less intrusive, as well as return to the prosperity that the US is capable of creating

    1. ~~ I know a bit about “farming” also. You’re a farmer on 160 acres or less. Anything more, you’re not farming — you’re an Agri-biz person, and without the support of all our tax money you wouldnt last a week.
      And as an aside — your Agri-biz production helps us locals not a whit, since about all of it goes to foreign nations as commodity aid, gets gobbled up for feed by the Agri-biz animal abusers, and if that’s not the case,bottom line is, most everything is owned and profited from by foreigners.
      As for your request for input on “term limits”, an old man named Bed Franklin had this to say in remarks in Framing Convention, 1787 (summarized by J Madison in his record):
      “It seems to have been imagined by some that the returning to the mass of the people was degrading the magistrate. This he thought was contrary to republican principles. In free Governments the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors & sovereigns. For the former therefore to return among the latter was not to DEGRADE but to PROMOTE them — and it would be imposing an unreasonable burden on them, to keep them always in a State of servitude, and not allow them to become again one of the Masters.”
      Emphasis per original.
      Thanks for dialoguing ! kenn-war4whatatgeeMaildotcom

  8. Would have liked to see an expansion on the thought; upward mobility is based a lot on the relationship between what you earn and what is left over after bills – disposable income. You touched on it briefly in the 60 second paragraph.
    Would it be so bad to make $28,000 to $32,000/yr if gas were $0.99/gallon, a soda $0.25, average price of a car $10,000, a home $80,000, higher education did not actually cost the first born you wanted to send away for higher education, etc? We went most of the 1800’s with no inflation (gold standard anyone). The artificial increases in the cost of living makes a higher income necessary. The higher the necessary income to achieve upward mobility, fewer people will achieve it. The more acquired skill necessary to achieve upward mobility through income, fewer people will achieve it. The greater the government regulations, the less access to upward mobility through entrepreneurship is possible. Fewer manufacturing jobs, the less upward mobility opportunity there is through hard work and on the job experience.
    Hard to find one area where upward mobility has been stymied that the government is not the root cause. Add in the increases in the cost of living / decreases of disposable income, which is also caused by government, and you find the individual squeezed on both ends.
    Alas, no real solution until Americans understand the government is the cause not the solution. As long as Americans vote based on which politician hands out the yummiest scraps, we will be like dogs under the dinner table waiting for the next hand out.

  9. Paul, I want you to look into Amb. Leo (Lee) Emil Wanta. He is a U.S. District court approved trillionaire. Yes, I did not flinch in stating that. Problem is this. “We the People” have enabled those to steal his money. “We the People” must un-enable those that stole his money (actually OUR money), and enable a mechanism to recover those funds. We are talking an immediate $1.7 TRILLION to the U.S. Treasury, that will show an immediate decrease in the national debt. Then we are talking about an immediate ~$1 TRILLION outlay (personal funds) to the world largest HSR (High Speed Rail) Maglev train system the world has ever seen. Bigger than that present in China. It would be a 21st century “new deal” without a shred of govt. assistance.

    2,000,000 permanent jobs times at least 7 residual jobs. We are talking about ~15,000,000 new jobs in a very short period of time. A massive adrenalin shot into a terminal U.S. economy. Understanding who this guy is (former I.G. for the DoD under Reagan, SECDEF designate to replace Weinberger, has a security detail that rivals GHWB, etc.) other things will go into motion almost simultaneously like the crumbling of the Federal Reserve System and the IRS with it. Deportation and/or prosecution of duel American-Israeli citizens in high level govt. positions of present. It will be a literal paradigm shift.

    The only thing stopping this, is “We The People.”

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