Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders Is Right That the 'Working Class' Is Shrinking. He's Wrong To Suggest That's a Bad Thing.

By nearly every measure, Americans are getting richer and richer. This should be cause for celebration, not concern.

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In a tweet this morning, Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who is running for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, shows that his grasp of economics is about as strong as his grasp of "breaking news." He writes,

Breaking News:

For the last 40 years the American working class has been disappearing and the rich have been getting richer.

What exactly do you figure Bernie is talking about? Working class is sometimes used to denote blue-collar workers, especially factory workers. If we're going that route, it's undeniable that factory jobs have indeed massively declined, but not just over the past 40 years. In fact, industrial jobs as a percentage of the total workforce peaked not in 1979 but in 1943!

Over the past couple of decades—at least since the 1990s, especially as President Bill Clinton was putting finishing touches on the North American Free Trade Agreement that critics wrongly feared would crater the U.S economy—we've spent a lot of time fretting over the end of factory jobs. In 2016, one of Donald Trump's main speaking points was that he was going to keep the factory jobs that remained and then bring back old ones that he mistakenly thought had gone overseas (between 2000 and 2010, according to one representative study, about 85 percent of factory job losses were due to automation, not free trade and off-shoring of jobs). The nostalgia with which factory jobs are treated is one sign that they've been gone for a very long time. Just as with Native Americans, we don't really embrace and romanticize objects of fear and ire until they are truly dispatched. Very few people loved factory jobs when they were a big part of the American economy—instead, you got movies like Modern Times, which portrayed working on an assembly line as torture and degradation. Same with farm work, which was something everyone wanted to escape when everyone had to do it.

FiveClassIncomeUrbanInstituteBut maybe Bernie is talking about the "middle class" when he breaks the decades-old news that the rich are getting richer. Here, too, he seems off. As Reason's Ronald Bailey has pointed out, between 1979 and 2014, the income distribution in America has gotten markedly better, with more people clustered in its upper reaches. Citing work done by Stephen Rose, an economist at the liberal Urban Institute, Bailey writes:

Rose divvied Americans into five income groups; the poor at $0 to 29,999; the lower middle class, from $30,000 to $49,999; the middle class, from $50,000 to $99,999; the upper middle class, from $100,000 to $349,999; and the rich, $350,000 and up. He then examined how each group had fared between 1979 and 2014.

The percentage of American families with incomes over $356,000 grew from 0.1 percent in 1979 to 1.8 percent in 2014. Meanwhile during that period the percent of Americans in the middle-middle class, the lower middle class and the poor fell from 38.8 to 32 percent, 23.9 to 17.1 percent and 23.4 to 19.8 percent respectively.

And as you can see in the chart above, folks in the "upper middle class" jumped from about 30 percent in 1979 to 52 percent in 2014. Yes, the rich do get richer, but when you start looking at individuals rather than statistical averages, an even-more heartening picture emerges for those of us who care about income mobility (I certainly do). Here's economist and Econtalk podcast host Russ Roberts sussing out the important data:

One study finds that when you compare the income of parents working in the early 1960s to their children's income from the early 2000s, "84% earned more than their parents, corrected for inflation. But 93% of the children in the poorest households, the bottom 20% surpassed their parents. Only 70% of those raised in the top quintile exceeded their parent's income." A different study also found that kids in lower-income groups were far more likely to outstrip their parents' income than those born to wealthy parents: "70% of children born in 1980 into the bottom decile exceed their parents' income in 2014. For those born in the top 10%, only 33% exceed their parents' income."

Another study Roberts writes up

looks at people who were 35–40 in 1987 and then looks at how they were doing 20 years later, when they are 55–60. The median income of the people in the top 20% in 1987 ended up 5% lower twenty years later. The people in the middle 20% ended up with median income that was 27% higher. And if you started in the bottom 20%, your income doubled. If you were in the top 1% in 1987, 20 years later, median income was 29% lower.

Like Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders is a populist whose rhetoric is intended to rile up people who feel like they are being taken to the cleaners by various elites (Trump zeroes in on cultural elites and institutions such as the academy and news media, Sanders focuses on economic elites). Each paints massively misleading pictures of contemporary life in America in an attempt to woo voters his way.

None of this is to say that things are perfect as is, or even tolerable. But on the one hand, you have someone like Donald Trump, whose positive contributions to economic growth—tax reform and deregulation, say—are offset by really stupid policies on trade, immigration, and deficit-spending. On the other hand, you have someone like Bernie Sanders, who may not be a classic socialist that wants the state to own the means of production but does want to grow the size, scope, and spending of government with regard to every aspect of the government. These are not good options and they should not be the only options available to American voters in 2020, or any other year for that matter.

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  1. In fact, industrial jobs as a percentage of the total workforce peaked not in 1979 but in 1943!

    I blame Hitler’s killer for that decline.

    1. I knew he didn’t do it himself!

      /Misek

  2. “Breaking News:
    For the last 40 years the American working class has been disappearing and the rich have been getting richer.”

    Reich wrote a column about this, oh, 15 years ago, and it’s been running in the Sunday Chron with slight weekly changes ever since:
    ‘The rich are getting richer faster than the poor are getting rich!!!!!!!!’

  3. “These are not good options and they should not be the only options available to American voters in 2020, or any other year for that matter.”

    ^ this.

    1. Welcome to every presidential election and damned near every other election since forever. Douche and Turd are your only choices.

      1. Pretty much.

      2. ahem, its Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich.

        1. Please, Please, PLEASE.

          Let every ballot have “None of the above”.

  4. Comrade Bernie never did a hard day of manual labor in his life.
    He was kicked out of a hippie commune for not doing his chores.
    He never had a small business to run or worked in the private sector.
    He didn’t start work until he was about 40 years old.
    He has lived off the taxpayers tit all his life.
    He honeymooned in that socialist paradise called the Soviet Union.
    He still thinks socialism is the panacea to all of America’s ills.
    He believes in medicare for all yet doesn’t say who is going to pay for it or how much its going to cost.
    He thinks unions are needed in almost every industry.
    He wants all American workers to have “a living wage” but can’t (or won’t) tell anyone how much that is.
    His wife is under investigation for embezzling funds for the college she worked for.
    Comrade Bernie is worth about $800,000, but is unwilling to give the majority of this money to government although he’s a believer in the myth of redistribution of wealth.
    Credibility isn’t exactly Comrade Bernie’s forte.

    1. Who is your preferred candidate (or candidates) for president?

      1. Willie Nelson

        1. Artie (amateur dedicated troll account) thinks you aren’t qualified, nay, allowed to criticize his beloved comrade if you happen to choose someone he considers “bigoted”.

      2. Whoever promises to murder you and drag your corpse through the streets so everyone can piss on it, you useless piece of garbage.

        1. “Whoever promises to murder you and drag your corpse through the streets so everyone can piss on it, you useless piece of garbage.”

          Most of us won’t bother, since we don’t want to stand in lines.

  5. If a wealthy person makes money on his investments, how does that harm me? It’s not as if I’d get the money if he didn’t.

  6. Bernie is stupid. There is no “working class” in the USA.

    There are rich Americans (whatever that is defined as)
    There are middle class Americans (Whatever that is defined as)
    There are poor Americans (Whatever that is defined as)

    Rich and poor people work. Middle class people work.

    1. Everyone works?

      Do you expect anyone to believe that?

      1. Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland
        August.14.2019 at 3:51 pm
        “Everyone works?
        Do you expect anyone to believe that?”

        Is it required to be brain-damaged to be a lefty asshole, or do you become one as a result?
        Regardless, fucking lefty ignoramuses can be properly ignored. Fuck off and die.

      2. Do you expect anyone to believe you’re not a piece of human trash who should blow his fucking pea sized brain out with a .45?

  7. You know what else is shrinking? The working class of neurons in Bernie’s brain.

    1. This implies that the neurons were ever working in the first place.

  8. Look at Bernie throwing up the white power fist.

    1. Is that bandaid from his last antifa battle?

      1. Is Bernie copacetic with the baby Bader-Meinhof cowards? He seems like he would be too old and white to actually attend any of their pogroms.

        Bernie at least owns his own crazy. He puts his name and his face to his nonsense, whereas antifa conceal their identities, attack from behind, and attack en masse.

  9. http://www.epi.org/publication/charting-wage-stagnation/

    Distribution may have changed but wages are still stagnating.

    The most fascinating statistic in the link is the huge disparity between productivity growth and wage growth. Productivity and wages are supposed to equal out with wages equaling productivity minus the expected return on investment.

    That is not happening.

    From 1973 to 2013, hourly compensation of a typical (production/nonsupervisory) worker rose just 9 percent while productivity increased 74 percent. This breakdown of pay growth has been especially evident in the last decade, affecting both college- and non-college-educated workers as well as blue- and white-collar workers. This means that workers have been producing far more than they receive in their paychecks and benefit packages from their employers.

    That is not a healthy labor market nor a healthy economy. Employers have too much leverage. It shouldn’t be working like this.

    1. “Distribution may have changed but wages are still stagnating.”

      Now try costs of goods and improvement in those goods. And the rise in benes.
      You’re good at simplistic bullshit.

      1. The cost of healthcare, housing, and education have all risen much faster than inflation or wages.

        There is more to life than pot, porn, and IPhones.

        1. You’ve selected three specific items, out of thousands. And one of those only shows significant increases in dense urban areas, while a second is optional.

          Food, transportation, communications, access to information, entertainment, and non-college education have all become dramatically cheaper. At the same time, the quality has gone through the roof.
          Even for health care costs, the quality of care given is above anything people living 50 years ago could dream of. Don’t believe me? Check the survival rates for heart disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, smallpox, or a host of other diseases.

          1. re healthcare and housing.

            The best measure of healthcare ‘quality of care’ is not how long you survive some particular disease – but how long you survive PERIOD. Break that down into all its different categories. For children – regardless of parental income – life expectancy rose dramatically until 1970 then a bit more slowly and now kind of level. That’s a pure ‘quality of technology/access’ thang with vaccines and interventions and such. For adults – regardless of income – life expectancy didn’t really change much until antibiotics then skyrocketed through the 1950’s and early 60’s. Since then (ie since Medicare) – virtually all changes in life expectancy among adults have accrued to elderly higher income who have gained 5-10 years in their late 70’s and 80’s. Elderly non-high income are still dying in their mid/late 70’s. For those of working age – lower income are less likely to have access and pay more for it than they used to (and in fact pay more for it than higher income do cuz they don’t get the same subsidies from employers).

            So whatever ‘quality of care/access’ you are asserting is NOT in fact distributed across income categories. So there is ZERO basis for your assertion that said ‘quality’ is offsetting the fact of massively higher cost.

            Housing has much the same problem – with additional deceit/lies from all inflation adjustments. Except that the division there is between renters (much worse off now than ever in US history) v homeowners but that too has an obvious income correlation.

            so as usual you people are left with – ooh TV’s are better now.

            1. or TLDR – Marie Antoinette made the same quality argument re bread prices for the peasants way back when — Qu’ils mangent de la brioche

              1. No, it was entirely too stupid to read:
                “So whatever ‘quality of care/access’ you are asserting is NOT in fact distributed across income categories. So there is ZERO basis for your assertion that said ‘quality’ is offsetting the fact of massively higher cost.”
                Bullshit; you’ve only shown that, like Reich. the poor are getting richer slower than the rich are. But as a fucking lefty ignoramus, that is not a surprise.

                “Housing has much the same problem – with additional deceit/lies from all inflation adjustments. Except that the division there is between renters (much worse off now than ever in US history) v homeowners but that too has an obvious income correlation.”
                Cite missing and I’m sure any cite will be as full of shit as JFree is.

    2. Don’t be an employee, be an employer.

      1. Not everyone can be an employee.

        1. No shit, fired lots of them

  10. Socialists gotta be socialists. It’s just Bernie.

  11. Americans might be getting richer, but America is getting poorer.

    Have to look at both sides of the ledger. We barrow to fuel our prosperity.

    1. IT
      August.14.2019 at 5:42 pm
      “Americans might be getting richer, but America is getting poorer.”

      Stupid shits are getting stupider; take a look at IT’s post.

  12. To me, “working class” means “people _can_ work (meaning: not the poor who lack marketable skills and/or job opportunities) and _need_ to work (meaning: not the people rich enough to do nothing)”. In other words, “middle class”. But, if you want to interpret “working class” as “industrial worker” so that you can throw up a chart that helps your argument, I guess I can’t stop you.

    However, if you look at the census numbers for average income levels of each of the five quintiles of income, you’ll see that the gap is widening since the early 80’s. Also, if you plot the proportion of population at each income level as a histogram, you’ll see that (again, since the early 80’s or earlier) the bell-curve is _widening_. Whereas there used to be a robust middle-class with a relatively small number of poor and rich, the bell-curve is getting squished. If the trend continues (with area in the center moving to the sides), you’ll end up with a depression in the middle, and humps to the side… basically indicating that middle-class is not a stable point; econonomic/social forces will cause them to move to one of the two humps… and moving _between_ the humps (a poor person being able to work hard and become rich or a rich person becoming poor through _lack_ of work) will become more and more rare.

    Not sure what your point was with the “Share of Income between 1979-2014”, since it didn’t say that it accounted for inflation, but it kinda doesn’t matter. This “Everybody’s richer than they were 50 years ago” or “Everybody has a color TV now” argument is completely hollow. It’s the _gap_ in wealth that makes someone happy or despondent. Take, for example, the richest guy in the world in the 1600’s. By your argument, he should have been permanently bummed out. He didn’t have a TV, a car, a cell phone… couldn’t fly across the Atlantic for a week’s wages.

    But you _know_ he was pretty stoked, because he could have whatever was available _for his time_. Study after study has shown this, that we look to the how well off our _contemporaries_ are to help us determine our satisfaction with our lives. One explanation offered for this is that contemporary wealth comparison (as opposed to comparing how we’re doing compared to our parents or younger self) is because present wealth (compared to present peers) determines how well we do when competing for things which are of fixed supply (two big ones being: real-estate and breeding opportunities). In a scenario of wide income/wealth inequality, you might be 2x as good looking as Jeff Bezos or 2x as understanding and charming, but, when he’s got $150B and you’ve got $500K, you’ve got _zero_ chance of getting the supermodel or the Malibu beach house. So, that’s one theory as to _why_ the studies are showing that it’s all about the width of the chasm one sees between themselves and the “haves”.

    1. It’s the _gap_ in wealth that makes someone happy or despondent.

      No it’s not. That assumption that ‘poverty’ is all ‘relative’ is as much a data/ideological bias as the notion of ‘ooh not even King Midas had a TV so everyone is rich now’.

      A better measure of happiness/despondency/satisfaction relative to income/wealth is not that first measure relative to any absolute measure of the second. It is how much does one have to work/acquire (separate from that goal) to achieve the goals that makes one happy.

      Say the ‘goal’ for a certain % of the population is – I want to work just enough to support my family and then stop working so I can spend time with my family. If you had to work 40 hours/week back when and now have to work 60 hours/week to do the same now, then you’re worse off now. Tougher to define those measures and then track them over time – but it’s doable. Even more difficult is separating out people with different goals into different categories (say above goal vs ‘I want to be the richest in my neighborhood) and tracking those over time – with possibly the introduction of new categories over time – but again it is doable

      Neither of those are done because most people are too lazy (and don’t care much anyway) to do that. And those who do tend to do that sort of study also tend to be ideological and dishonest.

      1. “Say the ‘goal’ for a certain % of the population is – I want to work just enough to support my family and then stop working so I can spend time with my family. If you had to work 40 hours/week back when and now have to work 60 hours/week to do the same now, then you’re worse off now. Tougher to define those measures and then track them over time – but it’s doable. Even more difficult is separating out people with different goals into different categories (say above goal vs ‘I want to be the richest in my neighborhood) and tracking those over time – with possibly the introduction of new categories over time – but again it is doable”
        And yet for your claims otherwise, you haven’t done so.

    2. First, learning the rules of punctuation would make your lefty screed more readable, and perhaps make people think you were bright enough to be read, but let’s take your bullshit apart anyhow:

      Joe Emenaker
      August.14.2019 at 6:09 pm
      “To me, “working class” means “people _can_ work (meaning: not the poor who lack marketable skills and/or job opportunities) and _need_ to work (meaning: not the people rich enough to do nothing)”. In other words, “middle class”.”
      Please translate that into English, if you are so capable.
      ——————–
      “But, if you want to interpret “working class” as “industrial worker” so that you can throw up a chart that helps your argument, I guess I can’t stop you.”
      Yeah, metrics are so scary to lefty dimbulbs.
      ——————
      “However, if you look at the census numbers for average income levels of each of the five quintiles of income, you’ll see that the gap is widening since the early 80’s. Also, if you plot the proportion of population at each income level as a histogram, you’ll see that (again, since the early 80’s or earlier) the bell-curve is _widening_. Whereas there used to be a robust middle-class with a relatively small number of poor and rich, the bell-curve is getting squished. If the trend continues (with area in the center moving to the sides), you’ll end up with a depression in the middle, and humps to the side… basically indicating that middle-class is not a stable point; econonomic/social forces will cause them to move to one of the two humps… and moving _between_ the humps (a poor person being able to work hard and become rich or a rich person becoming poor through _lack_ of work) will become more and more rare.”
      Uh, you started with the assumption that a widening income gap is *BAD* and then progressed to a bunch of lefty hypotheticals. Fail.

      “…It’s the _gap_ in wealth that makes someone happy or despondent. Take, for example, the richest guy in the world in the 1600’s. By your argument, he should have been permanently bummed out. He didn’t have a TV, a car, a cell phone… couldn’t fly across the Atlantic for a week’s wages.”
      No, your lame concern with a “gap” is lefty bullshit. Your happiness is not my concern; fuck off, slaver

      The rest of that pile of bullshit is really not worth a comment; ‘victim whining’
      Fuck off JE

  13. Good discussion with many worthwhile contributions. I agreed with a remarkably cool and level headed set of comments from John, too, something that rarely happens.

    1. “I agreed with a remarkably cool and level headed set of comments from John, too, something that rarely happens.”

      I’m sure you did. He’s wrong; see the cite (I know such a thing is beyond your dimwit ken, but give it a try)

      1. I prefer the wrong John to the foul mouthed hot head John you prefer.

  14. “The percentage of American families with incomes over $356,000”

    Anyone analyzing wealth by income is completely full of shit.

  15. Not all of us Nick….Not all of us.

  16. In all fairness, the lack of upward mobility in prog states comes straight from bigger Government. So, ya don’t think extremely high SALT, climate laws, gas taxes, solar mandates, illegal this, banning that, mandating extremely expensive maintenance replacement items have anything to do with CA’s expensive housing? There is plenty of upward mobility, just not in Prog run states and big cities (looking at Dallas). Of course when the progs move to the upwardly mobile states, they destroy all of the upward mobility and continue to push for more mandates, regulations, bans, taxes and climate laws that make growing the economy and inflation spike.

    1. growing the economy for the middle impossible

  17. I am making 8 to 10 dollar par hour at home on laptop ,, This is make happy But now i am Working 5 hour Dailly and make 40 dollar Easily .. This is enough for me to happy my family..how ?? i am making this so u can do it Easily….

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  18. Wow, talk about a bogus study.

    I won’t go through the whole thing, but, as an example, it states that households earning below $30,000 comprised only 19.8% of households in 2014 but when you look at IRS data (see link below) you see that 44.8% of tax forms filed had an income of below $30,000 in 2014 (very, very few file as “married filing separately”). And that doesn’t even count the millions more earning under $30,000 (mostly retirees) who don’t even have to file a return.

    https://www.irs.gov/statistics/soi-tax-stats-individual-statistical-tables-by-size-of-adjusted-gross-income – click on “2014”.

  19. Bernie is looking back to his good old days when the rich got the gulag.

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