Since the early 20th century, the United State has presented itself as a nearly classless society, with over 90% of its people belonging to what is loosely defined as the “Middle Class.” We take a look at the American Classism.
Compared to historical societies and other countries of the time period, this was a revolutionary change in economics; the idea that a person could live well without being rich opened doors to millions of people who had few options for economic advancement otherwise. By working decent jobs and earning living wages, families could own high-quality homes in safe neighborhoods, in addition to a number of other luxuries they would have had little access to without the creation of the middle class. Although this classless system worked wonders for millions of Americans in the early and mid-1900’s, the middle class has since dissolved into something just short of unachievable for many young Americans, and millions of citizens across the nation are standing up to its cause: classism.
What is Classism? What Does it Mean for Us?
Much like other issues such as racism and sexism, classism is a set of prejudice targeted against those belonging to a certain class. A rich person making fun of a poor person for not having very much money is a simple example of classism, however, such prejudice is typically practiced on a much larger scale. Classism also covers systems or policies which are created in order to benefit the members of the upper class, while those below them suffer the consequences. Oftentimes, such policies are put in place to keep the poor from attaining any sort of economic power that could, in turn, backfire on the upper class of society.
Classism in America can be seen in a wide variety of ways, perhaps the most familiar of which being the current state of the minimum wage. When the first national minimum wage was introduced in the mid-1930’s, it was done so to ensure that all Americans were earning living wages despite the objective importance of their work. The thought process behind establishing a minimum wage was that all workers deserve to feed and house their families and that no one should be working for less than a living wage. Nearly 90 years after its inception, the minimum wage is not enough to rent a two-bedroom apartment in any of the 50 states, showing just how low it truly is. No family can survive on minimum wage, and the over-abundance of jobs paying nothing more than a meager $7.25 an hour are participating in nationwide classism.
Low Wage Losers
Such low wages are attempts by the upper class to not only line their wallets with extra money but are intended to destroy the middle class as we know it. This can also be said for the current costs of college tuition, and the off-the-charts interest rates of federal financial aid. Students are being treated as profit centers, and those who cannot afford to attend college face a much larger chance of living in poverty, as more and more jobs paying living wages are requiring college degrees for employment. Students can no longer work a full- or part-time job while attending college in order to cover the cost of their tuition and will face a lifetime of debt should they choose to take out loans to cover the cost of their education.
Should they choose not to take this route in order to obtain a college degree, they will face living in poverty due to the abysmal state of the current minimum wage. These two less-than-ideal choices are prime examples of classism in today’s society; they are obvious ways in which “middle class” Americans are being shorthanded by the upper class.
The Middle Class: The Great American Myth
Despite the endless talk of America’s middle class, very few are able to actually define who is and isn’t a part of it. It’s common belief that those earning $250,000 or above are upper-class members of society, and the poverty line set by the U.S. Census in 2014 states that any individual earning less than $12,000 a year lives in poverty. However, what many don’t discuss is the middle ground, as anyone living on $30,000 a year can attest to, you don’t need to live below the poverty line to live in poverty.
These statistics are created by those in power to confuse those who are not. It is commonly known that those in the upper class are considered by many to be wiser and more intelligent than those who are not, meaning that a vast majority of middle and lower class people simply listen to what they are told by the upper class without ever questioning its logic or impact on their lives. Take a second to think about what defines poverty to you: do you see poverty as living on the street, or do you see it as living in a home in a neighborhood? What about the middle class? What do you picture when you imagine a middle class family?
Simply put, the middle class no longer exists. It is a belief perpetuated by those in power to shut down average Americans and prevent them from thriving and possibly disrupting the system. When living paycheck to paycheck due to the high cost of rent, bills, and student loans is considered to be “middle class,” everyone suffers.
The American Motivation Myth
Long gone are the days of going to college, getting a degree, and getting a well-paying job to start a family. Today’s young workers have a choice between a lifetime of debt or taking their chances without a degree (in a world where degrees are of ever-growing importance), neither of which play into the American Dream of old.
Some readers may be thinking that this is obvious and that a little motivation can help anyone break out of their class and find success. While this is mostly true (not entirely, as it takes money to make money, which anyone working an average wage job will not have), classism is still highly dangerous as it camouflages itself very well. With the majority of Americans thinking that low wages, high tuition costs, and average homes are all part of being middle class, they are unaware of the true position they are in.
When people believe that poverty is middle class, they will no longer fight to be respected by those in charge. The American people are feeling the effects of classism like very few other places in the world, and many are finally waking up the reality that the American Dream has been replaced by an American Nightmare, and finding a way around it involves ditching the idea of a middle class in an attempt to find financial security outside of it.
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