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Ed Driscoll

Middle Class Net Worth Collapses to Woodstock-era Levels

December 3rd, 2012 - 12:37 pm

And aesthetics would only get worse as the 1970s progressed…

As the New York Times (spotted by the Zero Hedge econo-blog) recently noted:

Between June 2009, when the recession officially ended, and June 2011, inflation-adjusted median household income fell 6.7 percent, to $49,909, according to a study by two former Census Bureau officials. During the recession — from December 2007 to June 2009 — household income fell 3.2 percent.

And of course, as Zero Hedge adds, “To believe the recession ended requires a bizarro interpretation of economics where bad is actually good and good is actually bad.”

Today, John Nolte writes at Big Government that “Middle Class Net Worth Collapses to 1969 Levels:”

The angle of a just-released New York University study is, of course, that ole’ left-wing canard known as “income inequality,” but the findings are still useful in drawing other conclusions, and not ones that are very pleasant. Is America now a bigger version of Chicago, where Democrats and the media have so expertly rigged the electoral game that, even as their policies fail, they’re able to stay in power?

According to the study, we are now back to 1969 levels with respect to median net worth in this country. A large part of this is the housing crisis we’ve yet to recover from, which cost the middle class 18% of its net worth. The news isn’t much better with respect to median incomes, which have dropped to $26,364, setting us all the way back to 1999.

1969 you say? What an interesting coincidence. At the end of that year, Time magazine named “The American Middle Class” its collective “Man of the Year:”

The American dream that they were living was no longer the dream as advertised. They feared that they were beginning to lose their grip on the country. Others seemed to be taking over—the liberals, the radicals, the defiant young, a communications industry that they often believed was lying to them. The Saturday Evening Post folded, but the older world of Norman Rockwell icons was long gone anyway. No one celebrated them: intellectuals dismissed their lore as banality. Pornography, dissent and drugs seemed to wash over them in waves, bearing some of their children away.

* * *

The gaps between Middle America and the vanguard of fashion are deep. The daughters of Middle America learn baton twirling, not Hermann Hesse. Middle Americans line up in the cold each Christmas season at Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall; the Rockettes, not Oh! Calcutta! are their entertainment. While the rest of the nation’s youth has been watching Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, Middle American teen-agers have been taking in John Wayne for the second or third time in The Green Berets. Middle Americans have been largely responsible for more than 10,000 Christmas cards sent to General Creighton Abrams in Saigon. They sing the national anthem at football games—and mean it.

The culture no longer seems to supply many heroes, but Middle Americans admire men like Neil Armstrong and to some extent, Spiro Agnew. California Governor Ronald Reagan and San Francisco State College President S.I. Hayakawa have won approval for their hard line on dissent. Before his death last year, Dwight Eisenhower was listed as the most admired man in the nation—and Middle America cast much of the vote. In death, John Kennedy is also a hero. Ironically, Robert Kennedy had the allegiance of much of Middle America along with his constituency of blacks and the young. Whatever their politics, both Kennedys had an idealism about America, a pride about it to which Middle Americans responded because they shared it.

The ugly cover that accompanied the story (copied above) is a reminder of how alienated Time had become from the American middle class that its founder, Henry Luce, had catered to, and tried to intellectually nurture, until he passed away in 1967. And that alienation/disgust by liberal elites with the American Middle Class hasn’t changed a jot since.

Reading the above article in conjunction with its cover illustration is a reminder of what James Lileks wrote on how the left views Middle America today: “once upon a time the major media at least pretended that the heart & soul of the country was a porch in Kansas with an American flag. Now it’s the outlands, the Strange Beyond. They vote for Bush, they believe in God, they’d have to drive 2 hours for decent Thai. Who are these people?”

Once nice thing about Bill Clinton — even as a liberal elite himself, he could display remarkable sympathy to the American Middle Class. His successors don’t even bother trying to gin sympathy for the Bitter Clingers, and are likely thrilled the collapse of the middle class net worth. After all, as Obama warned us — even before vowing to “spread the wealth around:”

We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times… and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK. That’s not leadership. That’s not going to happen.

Don’t worry champ — by now, we know.

Incidentally, just because your net worth declined, and you’re cutting back, the Ancien Regime doesn’t feel any particular need to economize themselves: “As Americans face a fiscal cliff, the Obamas make do with 54 Christmas trees.”

Update: Almost one tree per state, Jim Treacher quips: “You see, Romney is evil because of the way he spends his own money; Obama is good because of the way he spends yours.”

Plus a reminder for Bo the dog to keep moving, especially as Obama promised he’d have greater “flexibility” — both politically and culinary — in his second term.

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