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Cherry-picked statistics cannot hide the fact that the middle class is suffering

Cherry-picked statistics cannot hide the fact that the middle class is suffering
A dollar store in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Dec. 11, 2018. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

To the editor: Among the reasons economist Brad Schiller says the middle class is not in fact shrinking is that since there are millions of upwardly-mobile young people, newly single parents or empty-nesting elderly people in solo residences, of course median household income has dropped without actually indicating good-paying jobs are on the decline.

If the middle class isn’t shrinking, surely I can discount conflicting statistics showing that salaries have been stagnant for several decades despite rising costs, so a worker earning $35,000 today isn’t much better off that his or her predecessor was in 1998.

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Compare this to a high-income family, whose wealth may have grown upward of 20% in the same time frame.

Rather than our population moving through the various stages of wealth creation as laid out in economics textbooks, it actually appears that there are a lot of wealthy families skimming off the top of our economy, and a widening base of working poor who don’t see a way up as their employers’ fortunes rise.

Eric Oxenberg, Los Angeles

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To the editor: I concede that median household income may be declining largely because of an increase in single-person households. But something else is shrinking.

What happened to our society that used to generate the kinds of jobs in which a single employee could support a middle-class family?

Today’s society lives by a philosophy taken to its logical extreme, in which employers aim to keep more by paying their workers less. It’s a global phenomenon that results in an exaggerated wealth gap.

Capitalism can work very well if the “greed is good” mantra is not taken quite so far.

Darryl Rehr, Temecula

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To the editor: Schiller suggests the median household income is shrinking. He turns to the increasing numbers of lower-income single residences to explain this. His point begs the issue.

Ultimately an increasing percentage of the middle class is below the median income even if we consider his reasons for it. This means that the middle class as a whole has an increasing number of households with less disposable income.

A large middle class with increasing disposable income is what is necessary for a vibrant economy. Schiller ignores this in just trying to explain why the median numbers are declining.

Daniel Grifka, San Marino

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