Why do some people say the middle class is vanishing in America today? Why do some people say that poverty is spreading and growing deeper? If so, what effects will this have on American society and the American economy as a whole?




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НазваниеWhy do some people say the middle class is vanishing in America today? Why do some people say that poverty is spreading and growing deeper? If so, what effects will this have on American society and the American economy as a whole?
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Roles & Responsibilities of Government:

Should government provide social safety nets for those who can’t provide housing, food, health care, and/or education for themselves? (This is not a yes-no proposition. You can argue that the government should provide some of these services, but not all; or that the services should be provided under certain circumstances, but not others.)


Why do some people say the middle class is vanishing in America today? Why do some people say that poverty is spreading and growing deeper? If so, what effects will this have on American society and the American economy as a whole?

Witte, Griff. “As Income Gap Widens, Uncertainty Spreads.”

Krim, Jonathan, and Griff Witte. “Average Wage-Earners Fall Behind.”

Russakof, Dale. “Retirement’s Unraveling Safety Net.”

Meyerson, Harold. “The ‘Other America’ May Be Coming Back.”

Meyerson, Harold. “Public Workers Under Fire.”

“Life in the Bottom 80 Percent.” (editorial from the New York Times)

Sweeney, John J. “Economic Recovery for All.”

Dionne, E. J. “Who’s Playing ‘Class Warfare’?”

Weisman, Jonathan, and Ceci Connolly. “Poverty Rate Continues to Climb.”

“The Lagging Poor.” (editorial from the Washington Post).

Samuelson, Robert J. “Discovering Poverty (Again).”

Dionne. E.J. “That Was a Short War on Poverty.”

Dionne, E.J. “Perfect Storm for the Poor.”

Eberstadt, Nicholas. “Why Poverty Doesn’t Rate.”

Schiller, Bradley R. “Poverty’s Changing Faces.”

Samuelson, Robert J. “Importing Poverty.”

Mallaby, Sebastian. “Class Matters.”

Hacker, Jacob S. “Middle-Class Tightrope.”

Samuelson, Robert J. “Trickle-Up Economics.”

Sweeney, John J. “Working Families Need Help.”

Mallaby, Sebastian. “What Democrats Miss in Bushonomics.”

Turque, Bill. “Faces of the Needy in Affluent Fairfax.”

Finkel, David. “Life at $7.25 an Hour.”


If today’s American middle class is struggling, can the government do anything about it? Or should the American worker adapt on his own to changing workplace demands brought on by corporate restructuring, reductions in the workforce, or changes in technology and international trade? Even in the case of an unanticipated disaster—like Hurricane Katrina or the subprime mortgage collapse—can the government’s response really make any positive difference? Or does the government usually just mess things up more?

Meyerson, Harold. “A Tale of Two Texans.”

Dionne, E.J. “In Defense of Success.”

Fletcher, Michael A., and Spencer S. Hsu. “Bush: Congress ‘Shortchanged’ New Orleans.”

Abramowitz, Michael. “The President and His Critics Mark Anniversary Along Coast.”

Hsu, Spencer S. “First the Flood, Now the Fight.”

Moses, Jennifer. “Hurry Up and Wait.”

“Katrina, One Year Later.” (editorial from the Washington Post).

Mallaby, Sebastian. “Class Matters.”

Mallaby, Sebastian. “What Democrats Miss in Bushonomics.”

Mallaby, Sebastian. “Attacking Inequality.”

Ignatius, David. “Economics and the Inevitable.”

Montgomery, Lori. “Aid May Grow for Laid-Off Workers.”

Samuelson, Robert J. “Trickle-Up Economics.”

Meyerson, Harold. “Devaluing Labor.”

Vedantam, Shankar. “In Today’s Rat Race, the Most Overworked Win.”

Meyerson, Harold. “A Gentler Capitalism.”

Samuelson, Robert J. “The Rich and the Rest.”

Dionne, E.J. “If Democrats Want to Help the Poor. . .”


Speaking of government action, did government INACTION—especially refusal to regulate Wall Street—cause the fall 2008 economic collapse?

Irwin, Neil, and Dan Eggen. “Economy Made Few Gains in Bush Years.”

Meyerson, Harold. “The Money-Changers.”

Cohen, Richard. “Meet Lady Subprime.”

Robinson, Eugene. “The Year of Madoff.”

Merle, Renae. “Wall Street’s Final ’08 Toll: $6.9 Trillion Wiped Out.”

Robinson, Eugene. “Idiots of the Universe.”

Pearlstein, Steven. “Stumbling on Their Sense of Entitlement.”


Can enormous public spending now fix our current economic problems while leveling social inequalities at the same time? Or by driving up the deficit, will that in fact make our problems worse?

No; don’t spend, it won’t do any good and will make the deficit worse:

Samuelson, Robert J. “The Rise of Fantasy Politics.”

Montgomery, Lori. “U.S. Debt Expected to Soar This Year.”

Ip, Greg. “We’re Borrowing Like Mad. Can the U.S. Pay It Back?”

Will, George F. “Runaway Stimulus.”

Samuelson, Robert J. “Three Crises in One.”

Yes; only government spending can bring us back from the brink and pave the way for future economic dominance:

Schwarz, John E. “Tax. Spend. Create Great Jobs.”

Mallaby, Sebastian. “McCain’s Convenient Untruth.”

Edelman, Peter B., Mark H. Greenberg, and Harry J. Holzer. “A Safety Net for the Least Fortunate.”


Even if it’s not the place of government to equalize all economic and social class differences, are there some areas—especially health care—where in the future, the government must play a greater role? If so, why? Given the increasing danger of pandemic flu, bioterrorist attack, and an aging population, what kind of future does America face with no health care for many of its citizens?

“The Health Care Gap.” (editorial from the Washington Post)

Ivins, Molly. “As Health Care Crumbles.”

Samuelson, Robert J. “The Real Economic Scorecard.”

Samuelson, Robert J. “Health-Care Realism.”

Samuelson, Robert J. “Obama’s Health Care Headache.”

Will, George F. “Dr. Leavitt’s Scary Diagnosis.”

Brown, David. “We All Want Longer, Healthier Lives. But It’s Going to Cost Us.”

Fairhall, John, and Kate Steadman. “The New Uninsured.”

Pearlstein, Steven. “Bloviation vs. Reality on Stimulus Health-Care Provision.”

Connolly, Ceci. “COBRA Too Costly for Many Unemployed, Report Finds.”

Connolly, Ceci. “In North Carolina, Recession Breeds a Health-Care Crisis.”


What about education? Is that something that everyone should be entitled to, like health care? Does a good government owe its citizens a good education?

Garland, James C. “How to Put College Back Within Reach.”

Dionne, E.J. “Creating Wealth for the Poor.”

Ryan, James. “Sit In for School Equality.”

Fisher, Marc. “Homeland Security Starts in Our Schools.”

Helderman, Rosalind S. “Education Cuts Spur Warning.”

Anderson, Nick. “7,000 New Teachers on the Job.”

Whittle, Chris. “We Can Pay Teachers More.”

Epstein, Noel. “Of Reading, Writing—and Raising Kids.”

Augustine, Norman R. “Learning to Lose?”

Broder, David S. “Math and Science Test for Bush.”

Sperling, Gene. “How to Get Fewer Scientists.”

Samuelson, Robert J. “How We Dummies Succeed.”

Trejos, Nancy. “The Strain to Pay for College.”

Strauss, Valerie. “Community Colleges Get Student Influx in Bad Times.”


Is it possible that offering some social safety nets to the middle class, and even the poor, is actually in the best interest of the rich as well as the lower classes? If so, why? For example, what impact does growing poverty have on crime and social collapse during and after a terrorist attack or natural disaster? And how might this affect the rich as well as the middle class and poor?

Dionne, E.J. “Who Will Pay?”

Raspberry, William. “Our Rules vs. the Poor.”

Ignatius, David. “Time to Mend the Safety Net.”

Raspberry, William. “Two Storms, Ample Warning.”

Robinson, Eugene. “Where Good Times Haven’t Rolled.”

Duke, Lynne, and Teresa Wiltz. “A Nation’s Castaways.”

Robinson, Eugene. “Third World Scenes.”

Pearlstein, Steven. “Boats Rose in New Orleans, but Not for the Poor.”

Samuelson, Robert J. “Discovering Poverty (Again).”

Whoriskey, Peter. “In Miss., Hope of Going Home Dwindles.”


There’s another inequality problem that affects all but the wealthiest Americans. It’s a quality of life issue. There’s a growing gap in both stress levels and financial security between those who work for a living—even if they are educated professionals—and those who don’t work, or who work only for a short period of their lives. (Paris Hilton may think her life is stressful, but does she really know what stress is?) Is there any way to address this issue, or is this a new reality we have to learn to live with?

Vedantam, Shankar. “In Today’s Rat Race, the Most Overworked Win.”

Samuelson, Robert J. “Myths and the Middle Class.”

Parker, Kathleen. “Pink Slips du Jour.”

Shin, Annys. “College Degree No Shield as More Jobs Are Slashed.”

Fletcher, Michael A. “Highly Skilled and Out of Work.”

Trejos, Nancy. “More Than a Day Job.”

Fisher, Marc. “All-Stars Give Kids One Message But Live Another.”

Fisher, Marc. “Homeland Security Starts in Our Schools.”

Schiffman, Richard. “Why We Should Work Less.” (January 28, 2012)


What’s new for 2010?

In brief, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs. One of the most intractable social problems since the 2008 recession has been the reluctance of American corporations to hire new workers. Businesses are doing much better. They have cash. But they’re hoarding cash rather than investing in business expansion. This means they aren’t hiring new workers, or if they hire them, they hire them abroad, where labor is cheaper. Moreover, this problem increases as time goes on, since unemployment benefits for the chronic unemployed are running out, and most politicians don’t want to renew them.

The nation’s average unemployment rate hovers just under ten percent—higher than it’s been in decades. But in some geographic areas and among some social classes, unemployment rates are much higher, as high as thirty percent. The unemployment crisis is serious because without more American jobs, the economic recovery will eventually stall for businesses as well. Unemployed people don’t buy cars, houses, or electronic gadgets. They don’t take vacations. They don’t go back to college. They don’t have access to basic services like health care. They buy less food, and if possible they avoid buying gas, especially if they now lack even government unemployment benefits as a cushion. As a result, every area of the economy contracts, resulting in more lay-offs, which cause further economic contraction. This downward spiral, once begun, is difficult to reverse.

All of these articles address the critical issue of high unemployment. They may also address other issues, such as declining home values, declining government benefits like college scholarships (due to a declining tax base), and declining stock prices that affect retirement benefits. But unemployment that remains high, or continues to rise, is the most worrisome trend. That’s the stuff of Depression.

Irwin, Neil, and Dana Hedgpeth. “Weak Job Growth Slams Brakes on a Steady Recovery.” (June 5, 2010)

Hedgpeth, Dana. “In Ward 8, Recovery Is a World Away.” (June 13, 2010)

Fletcher, Michael A. “For Longtime Jobless, No More Help In Sight.” (July 13, 2010)

Robinson, Eugene. “Losing More Than Jobs.” (July 6, 2010)

Samuelson, Robert J. “The Great Stranglehold.” (July 12, 2010)

Irwin, Neil. “The Real Reason Companies Aren’t Hiring.” (August 21, 2010)

Mui, Ylan Q. “Wal-Mart’s Worldview Is Increasingly Global.” (June 8, 2010)


The two editorials listed below address two other “hot topics” confronted by Congress, as it tries to deal with an unhealthy economy that hasn’t fully responded to government stimulus programs. Do we renew Bush tax cuts for wealthy investors, corporations, and small businesses, hoping they’ll respond by hiring American workers? And how important is it to reduce deficit spending, even if that means slashing social services and benefits for the unemployed?

Shut up and tax the rich already:

Zakaria, Fareed. “The Easiest Deficit Fix.” (August 2, 2010)

Don’t punish the rich for their success:

Marcus, Ruth. “A Tax Too Steep.” (July 7, 2010)

Wilson, James Q. “Angry about Income Inequality? Don’t Blame the Rich.” (Jan 29, 2012)


New for 2011:

The signature achievement of the Obama administration, in terms of creating a new social safety net for the poor and middle class, is his health care plan. It has not yet gone into effect and Republicans have vowed to repeal it in a Republican administration. Therefore, most of the articles and editorials I’ve collected on the roles & responsibilities of government can be divided into two sets:

  • those that are specifically about providing all citizens access to health care (or arguing that we can’t do this), and

  • those that are about alleviating extreme social class differences in general, mostly by providing more and better-paying jobs for those who are out of work (or arguing that we can’t do that).

On health care:

Samuelson, Robert J. “Punting on Health Care.” (December 23, 2011)

Samuelson, Robert J. “Why We Must End Medicare ‘As We Know It’.” (June 6, 2011)

Aizenman, N.C. “Long-term Care Program Scrapped: Key Part of Obama’s Health Law Class Act Unworkable, Administration Says.” (October 15, 2011)

Singletary, Michelle. “Imagine if Family Caregivers Could No Longer Take Care of Kin.” (August 4, 2011)

Kumar, Anita. “Va. To Transform Care of Developmentally Disabled.” (Jan 27, 2012)

Senator, Susan. “When the Autistic Child Grows Up.” (December 25, 2011)

Brown, David. “We Can Treat AIDS, but Who Will Pay for It?” (May 31, 2011)

On alleviating (NOT eliminating) class differences in general):

Lane, Charles. “Obama’s Leaky Bucket.” (December 20, 2011)

Dvorak, Petula. “Romney’s $374,000: a Wake-Up Call on Income Gap.” (Jan 20, 2012)

Marcus, Ruth. “Romney’s Disconnect.” (Jan 18, 2012)

Whoriskey, Peter. “Congress Looks Less Like Rest of America.” (December 27, 2011)

Summers, Lawrence. “Three Ways to Combat Inequality.” (November 21, 2011)

Zakaria, Fareed. “Lessons from Abroad.” (Jan 19, 2012)

Altman, Drew, and Larry Levitt. “A Poverty Test for the Budget.” (November 19, 2011)

Gerson, Michael. “A Poverty of Solutions.” (Jan 20, 2012)

Wilson, James Q. “Angry about Income Inequality? Don’t Blame the Rich.” (Jan 29, 2012)

Brooks, Arthur C. “Fighting Words: Obama Is Wrong When He Says It’s ‘Fair’ to Tax the Wealthy.” (April 24, 2011)

Dionne, E.J. Jr. “Obama the Conservative.” (December 26, 2011)

Milbank, Dana. “The Ex-speaker, Giving Obama a Hand.” (Jan 25, 2012)

Saslow, Eli. “ ‘I’m Not Looking for a Handout.’ Entitlement Society? Opportunity Society? Steven Murdock Sees Little of Either.” (Jan 19, 2012)

Samuelson, Robert J. “Downwardly Mobile America?” (October 17, 2011)

Zakaria, Fareed. “Broken Bootstraps.” (November 10, 2011)

Whoriskey, Peter. “As GDP Grows, Divide Remains: 2.8% Expansion in Fourth Quarter, But Gains Aren’t Getting to Consumers’ Wallets.” (Jan 28, 2012)

Schiffman, Richard. “Why We Should Work Less.” (Jan 28, 2012)

Dionne, E.J., Jr. “Romney’s Type of Capitalist.” (January 12, 2012)

Lane, Charles. “Down with Rent.” (January 31, 2012)

“Republican Rx: Trillions in Tax Cuts.” (January 30, 2012)

Hiatt, Fred. “A Dormant Debt Debate.” (January 30, 2012)

Samuelson, Robert J. “The Realities of a ‘Buffet Tax.’ “ (January 30, 2012)

Cowen, Tyler. “Will Tough Times Breed a New Political Era?” (Jan 29, 2012). Note: This is a book review; the book is The Age of Austerity, How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics, by Thomas Byrne Edsall. Cowen mostly disagrees with Edsall’s conclusions.

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