Is there a growing "American underclass," and who's in it?

And how would we define such an underclass, anyway? I keep hearing about how the gap between rich and poor is widening in the U.S. It’s not that I don’t believe it, but how is this measured/quantified?

I imagine the easiest way is to subtract the money that the poorest of the poor have from the money that the richest of the rich has and voila! There’s your gap.

Actually, Satan, I believe a better solution would be to take the averages of the top 1% and the averages of the bottom 1% to get the gap. And then there are other annoyances to deal with… do we include lazy, unemployed college bums like me when discussing “the bottom 1%”? 'Cuz I can guarantee… I’ll do my damndest to skew the results as much as I can! :smiley:

No, you’re both wrong (sticks tongue out, mocks obvious stupidity of SPOOFE and Satan). You measure the density of the middle class. If more and more people fall into that category, then the gap is becomng smaller; if more and more people fall into either of the extremes, the gap is becoming wider.

IMHO, I think the first thing is to define what is meant by ‘poverty’

Is it purely income and per household or does it also reference housing, education opportunity and quality, quality of environment, health care availability, etc. Is it per person or per family unit – what is a ‘family unit’ in modern society ?

Then the question becomes: What is an acceptable minimum standard within a society given the economic power of that society ? In phrasing the question that way, one can see ‘underclass’ is not measured by relative considerations but rather by absolutes.

It’s a big area in which a debate could focus and range across anything from the means and merits of statistical analysis through a (political) social policy discussion to general social philosophy.

Google brings forth 2,900 results for the search term ‘defining underclass’

Bring it on :wink:

What people usually mean when they talk about rising inequality are measures such as the “Gini index”, which measures the deviation of current income distribution from perfect equality: i.e., if everybody had exactly equal shares of total income then the Gini index would be zero, whereas if Bill Gates, say, had all the income and everybody else had nothing the Gini index would be 1. The Gini index has definitely been rising over the past few decades.

However, as L_C points out, that doesn’t tell us anything about absolute measures of poverty: it could be that everybody’s doing fine, but some are simply doing super-fine. A good discussion of different factors that could affect our interpretation of the Gini index is given in this article.

Statistics on trends in real wages, though, seem to indicate that the lower and middle classes have not been flourishing by absolute standards either; real wages for these groups have seen significant decline since the 1970’s. However, there was the beginning of an upward trend in the last part of the 90’s, apparently impelled by low unemployment plus the increase in the minimum wage.

So, is the American underclass growing or not? To sum up from this analysis of the Census Bureau’s Income and Poverty Report for 1998:

  • The number of poor people has recently declined both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the overall population, and this trend holds true even among historically disadvantaged groups. (Poverty rates for blacks and Southerners, for example, both hit all-time lows in the late 1990’s.)

  • The percentage of poor people is still higher than it was in most of the 1970’s.

  • Poor people are deeper in poverty than they were a few years ago: according to one measure, “the average amount by which the incomes of poor families fall below the poverty line was $245 greater per family member in 1998 than in 1995.”

  • Full-time workers are slightly more likely to be poor: “the number of full-time year-round workers with incomes below the poverty line rose by 459,000 in 1998.”

  • Poor people (and many non-poor people) got at most only a very little less poor during the high-growth 1990’s (whereas before the 1970’s, economic growth tended to make income inequality shrink):

So the reason a lot of people are worrying about the “widening gap between rich and poor” is not that lots of people are getting lots poorer, but that apparently the income-boosting advantages of a strong economy that have made the rich lots richer are not having a comparable effect on the non-rich. It’s been suggested that the increased global mobility of capital and the weakening of labor due to the increase in contract and temporary workers, etc., have shifted the employer/employee balance of power strongly in the employers’ favor. If true, this raises concerns about a partial “Third-Worldization” of our society, where nominal equality and democracy would just serve as a cover for persistent class inequalities based on wealth.

Do you want to know who the underclass are?

Locate your local free mental health clinic, where most people on mental disability go. Around 95% get a whole $750 from Uncle Sam to live on per month. These clinics are always loosing therapists and cutting back on services because the government hates to fund them.

Stop in at the local monthly food distribution spot from the government. Your local food bank will tell you when and where. Once a month our generous government gives out a whopping maximum of $8.00 worth of food, most generic, some of it crappy.

Visit the locale welfare office and sit outside. Seventy-five percent of the people going in get food stamps and a check and are luck to make $10,000 a year from there. Now, the do get housing assistance, but most of the housing they are given or which participate in the program are in high crime, less desirable areas. Most landlords will accept the, say $250 a month on a $350 rent, but quietly the tenant will have to slip the person at least another $100 on the side or get out.

Check out the local slave market, that is, the Day Labor spots. People hire out to get paid by the day to do grueling, basic labor with no benefits at all at minimum wage, but often they give 5 percent to the day labor office. Sometimes the people hiring them deduct 10% if they have to pick them up at the labor office. So, they loose 15% right off of the top.

Minimum wage is not sufficient in most coastal states to support a halfway decent lifestyle because the cost of living in these places is high. Unfortunately, jobs are often most available there, in the service industries, with no benefits, 39 hours max to avoid over time and insurance, and limited workman’s comp.

Stop by here someday, and I’ll show you whole districts in 3 cities where the lower income folks live. You can usually tell because they drive older cars, live in older houses and don’t have SUVs, boats, motorhomes, huge trucks, fast entertainment watercraft and their lawns look somewhat poor because they don’t pay for yard men, cannot afford the monthly lawn care spray truck, and cut back on expensive city water.

Check out the statistics of those who earn below the poverty level and there they are!

$16,000 a year used to be a good wage in 1980. $24,000 is just passing now. Everything has gone up. Some folks are in a trap. Those on disability and/or Social Security as income find that each time they get a raise, their personal health insurance, oddly enough, goes up and eats up most of it. Plus the state they live in often takes a small bite to pay for medical coverage. So their, say, 5% raise might be reduced to 2%.

One place I used to live was mainly Union. (This is one reason why I dislike Unions.) Each time the Union got a raise, every grocery store in town upped their prices. Like a store owner told me; ‘the Union gets a raise and I get a raise.’

Health insurance is obnoxiously high. Even with Social Security, those who can afford it need to get supplemental insurance because SS pays only 30% of 80% of the total bill. Medication costs are obnoxious also and most cheap medical plans don’t give you a prescription benefit. SS stops paying for your meds if you get over $445 a month in benefits.

Many people I know earn minimum wage and many work two jobs just to get to over $20,000 a year. Most married couples with kids work two jobs to earn over $30,000.

It gets to be a bitch when you work 60 hours a week to make $25,000 a year and you see these guys and gals tooling around in new cars, ear glued to cell phones, working in offices and making $60,000 and up for doing less than you do.

Check out your local homeless shelter also, if you have one. Park across the street around nightfall when most head in for the night. A lot of these places are not allowed to let people stay there all day, so after breakfast, everyone has to leave no matter the weather.

Park by your local Public Health Center and watch who goes in there also, for a minimum amount of treatment by the lowest bidder doctors. Some of these places used to have extra doctors who volunteered services, but for some reason, many, after hiring on a full time doc, who is usually over loaded, they stopped letting volunteers work there.

Examine the Meat Houses, Houses of Meat, or small meat markets located in low income areas. See who buys the crap meat in there. Then check out who buys the meat in your local butcher shop. Big difference.

We are developing a major problem here in the US between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.

A guy gets real irritated when he can’t buy medication because he can’t afford the costs or can’t get an operation that anyone making over $50,000 a year can easily get.

My mother is on SS and a small government pension. Retired. 401ks and retirement packages were not even thought of when my late father worked. He also believed, as was the thought of the times, that wives should not have to work. Lately, new housing went into her area. She’s been paying $250 a year in house insurance for years.

Because of the new homes raising the property value, she just got her current bill; $500! She’s not claimed anything on that insurance in over 40 years! Plus, because the increase in neighbors drained her well water level, she got onto the county water system, and they keep upping the charges. Gas prices hover at $1.47 in her area. In order to not go nuts with normal cable – which has been screwed up in order to get you to buy digital, she went digital. Now instead of $42 a month to watch some TV, she pays $71. She got her yearly SS raise and her health insurance took not only all of it with their increase, but charged her $1.00 more, so now she actually makes less than before the raise.

Come summer, because she uses A/C, her power bill will nearly double because the rates will go up as they always do. Tourists arriving cause grocery prices to increase dramatically. The last time her roof went bad, us kids pitched in and paid for the $5000 reroofing job. I bought her a used car of her choice because her old one was coming apart and she could not afford to get it fixed. I mow her lawn because lawn guys charge nearly $70 just to cut her small property and my other brother does house repairs for her. She paints the inside of her house by herself at 73. I help paint the outside.

If not for us, she probably would not be able to keep her home in good shape. Prices have changed her from being reasonably well off to being below the poverty line. It’s a good thing she owns her home completely.

There are thousands more in her same position, of all ages.

In your (otherwise eloquent) post, this stuck out. To me, this would indicate the benefits of unions in terms of raising incomes for lower class workers. Not only the unionized workers benefit – the grocer does as well. Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding your point.

Though Spyder’s post is anecdotal rather than statistical, it illustrates the same concerns that are mentioned in the broader surveys I cited. That is, the “widening gap” means that as some people get much richer, others are having to work a lot harder simply to avoid falling into poverty.

Spyder: *One place I used to live was mainly Union. (This is one reason why I dislike Unions.) Each time the Union got a raise, every grocery store in town upped their prices. Like a store owner told me; ‘the Union gets a raise and I get a raise.’ *

While I wouldn’t argue that there are no problems with labor unions, it seems to me that you might be shooting yourself in the foot with this attitude. Labor unions are about the only force for economic democracy we’ve got left, especially now that direct or near-direct control of politics by the wealthy is so much easier, and so few of the poor and working-class actually vote. The stagnation or decline of real wages for most of the non-rich since the '70’s has coincided with the significant weakening of the labor movement. It might be time to take a serious look at labor unions again and see if we can’t restore their earlier value in protecting the interests of the non-powerful, while at the same time avoiding the corruption and inefficiency that so tarnished organizations like the Teamsters in recent decades.

[Note added in preview: Yeah, what Ace Face said.]

This is somewhat tongue in cheek but I really couldn’t let this pass…

I’m suddenly glad I got that SUV in the will. Otherwise:

  1. Live in older house. Mines 130+ years old and it’s a race betwixt me and entropy.
  2. Boat. Don’t have one.
  3. Motorhomes. Don’t have one.
  4. Huge truck. Don’t have one. Just the Explorer that I inherited
  5. Fast Entertainment Watercraft. Don’t have one.
  6. Lawn looks poor. Yep, that’s mine.
  7. Cut back on expensive city water. I’m on a well. No city water for me. Just rusty, muddy water that I filter.

Now here’s the kicker, children. Except for the SUV thing I qualify for 7 out of 8 of Spyder’s criteria for being in the underclass.

So am I in the underclass? I have my doubts.

Annual household income for us?

$140,000

So whilst I found Spyder post to be in sympathy with most of my own beliefs (trust me, the rural Appalachians is a fine, fine place to see abject poverty) I found the description of who the underclass is to be over-the-top. I think if you applied that standard to the US at large you’d find that most of the middle and some of the upper class don’t qualify for all (or even most) of those items.

Well, I almost did shoot myself in the foot with the Union section, but not everyone in the town was Union, so they suffered for it. As a side note, I agree with the basic union principals and concept, but disagree when it is abused tremendously. Most unions I’ve run into are corrupt or mishandled at the top and the members turn out to be fanatics. I’ve had problems with unions before, including getting to watch first hand ‘scare’ tactics I’d thought ended in the 40s and 50s applied today. But, that’s a different topic.

At $140,000 a year, you’re in the upper middle class no matter how you live. You’ve got good insurance, bills are paid, house – if you have a family – is large, probably have a good retirement plan and a good position in your company. You’re not making $6.75 an hour and only being allowed to work 39 hours a week.

One major company I worked for, some years back, paid me the then good wage of $6.50 an hour and set me at a 40 hour week. I was expected to work up to 50 hours, with the extra hours off of the clock. My job was to run the stock room. When I arrive there, I weighed in at 250 pounds with a 40 inch waist. After emptying freight from the many tractor trailers and hauling it into the loft where it was sorted and stacked, within 4 months I was down to 165, wearing jeans with a 33 inch waist. I had to deliver papers at night to make enough additional cash to pay rent, bills and buy things. I got the magnificent raises of about twenty-five cents per hour per year at the stock room! I made about $12,000 a year! With the paper route, earning $7,200 – working every day – I cleared around $18,000 yearly.

That would have put me, then, at upper lower class and $8,000 above the then poverty level of $10,000 a year. Today, the poverty level is $16,000.

Increases in the cost of living go up according to those in the middle, middle class earning bracket, which is around $100,000 a year but for various reasons, most of which I don’t fully grasp, businesses cut back on basic personnel and benefits, creating a huge service industry of low income levels.

There is a greater demand for unskilled service people than for trained decision makers and more than enough such people to fill the jobs, which created a ‘if you don’t do it, I’ll hire someone who will’ attitude in employers. Your service industry hires a lot more people than the higher paying jobs do.

My area has no major industry, but a tremendous amount of service jobs oriented towards retirement communities and tourists. We had a hiring boom not too long back, which drew in people from neighboring towns. For the first year, stores could not get enough people. Now, a few years later, they can’t get enough good people because they pay minimum wage and offer few benefits.

Excluding those who are retired and living on an adequate income, I would estimate that 25% of the local population earn minimum wage. That is a high number! Another 25 or 30% earn lower middle income. The rest earn around $60,000 and up into the $1,000,000 range. Our cost of living is based on the latter.

While wages went from $6.00 an hour to the current $6.75 over the past 10 years, the cost of housing jumped from, say $60,000 for a low end new house to $90,000. Most new houses run at $100,000. An existing home, valued then at $45,000 is now $80,000. A can of Campbell’s soup jumped from 55 cents to 98 cents, meat from 98 cents for cheap cuts to $1.98. Pork went astronomical! The average doctors office visit went from $30 to $50. A tooth extraction at the dentist went from $30 to $100. Gasoline is hard to judge, but roughly it went from 98 cents a gallon to a current low of $1.43. Rents shot up. A place I once rented some years back at $375 a month is now renting for nearly $600. (It’s only worth $375 a month!)

Now, try handling all modern costs on a wage of $24,000 a year or lower.

If you don’t think there is a growing poverty level or under people, then you are part of the problem. There is a huge market now in buying repossessed houses, fixing them up and reselling them. Just the thing for the modern yuppie! Great investment!

But, what about the people who lost those homes? Banks have begun to reposess homes more quickly now because there is a market for their resale.

I know couples who not only work two jobs, but run a paper route at night to make sure their two kids get good school cloths and reasonable Christmas gifts or vacations. Neither of their main jobs earn them over $30,000 a year. With all three jobs, they make $65,000 a year.

Now, some say the ‘under class’ are lazy, but these folks certainly are not. They just cannot get anything better. I’ll bet you can’t guess how pleased they are when they drive by some $110,000 house, spot three new cars in the drive way and some guy in his middle age practicing putting on his groomed lawn with a $100 club, cell phone clipped to his expensive trouser waist, with $5000 worth of perfect teeth and a $50 haircut.

There’s also a whole lot of resentment building up in these ‘lower classes’. That leads to trouble.

Remember what I said about housing assistance? Well, here, they often demolish older houses in good neighborhoods instead of renting them to people on HUD. Houses in need of repair in bad districts are left for these folks.

Let me just say that I agree with you. Through hard work, fast talk, and some luck I was able to get where I am. I don’t think I ever said I was anything but upper middle class (though in Northern Virginia I’m not sure how ‘upper’ I really am with the Internet boom here). I simply wanted to point out that, in what is a fairly insightful post, you step over the line into generalizations that don’t serve yourself or others well.

I know you said you didn’t entirely understand it, but could you explain this a little further? I’m unclear as to how a cutback in basic personnel and benefits creates a service industry. It’s my understanding that service industries grow regionally when an influx of liquid cash comes into an area. Service industries then develop when people decide they would rather pay for services than perform them on their own.

Shouldn’t this bring about a cycle of wage inflation? My experience is limited to Northern Virginia but we’ve certainly been through a cycle of that here. Where I could hire an entry level assistant for $22,000/year three years ago I’m now having to offer $30,000/year to kids right out of college. That’s an entry level inflation rate of 36% in three years. And it comes about because, here in NoVa, there simply aren’t enough bodies to fill the available jobs.

Now, I’ve never claimed anyone was ‘lazy’ or nothing but this is another example of what started me posting in this thread. Once again, I’m clearly upper middle class and while I bought my house for $203,000 four years ago I think that’s more a sign of a different housing market than it’s overall worth. Other than that, yes, I’m middle aged (well, I turned 34 last Sunday), I don’t golf, have a groomed lawn, no cell phone, I wear dockers, I haven’t dropped $5K on my teeth in my life and get my hair cuts from a local barber.

All I’m saying here is that you should probably not make such value judgements on a knee-jerk basis. Do some people do better than others? Of course. Does that make them automatically rich, flaunt it around snobs? I think not.

SpyderA48, i don’t think you really know what poverty is. In the sob story about you mother’s poverty, i picked up a bunch of things which shows that she is pretty well off. Here’s a list:

  • she owns a home which just had a dramatic rise in property value
  • she owns a fairly large property ($70 to have the lawn cut … that’s not small)
  • she lives in a nice region (attracts tourists seasonally)
  • she can afford to pay $71 a month to watch TV
  • she can afford air conditioning
  • she can afford auto insurance (assuming it’s a mandatory-insurance state, which most are)

And these are just the things i noticed from all the bad things, imagine if you listed good things!

Here is what i consider being just over the poverty line:

  • a roof over the head, with fairly comfortable living conditions (A/C goes a bit beyond ‘fairly comfortable’)
  • enough food to eat
  • decent clothing (not Abercrombie)
  • some small luxuries (TV, microwave, etc.)
  • a low-cost vehicle, used only when needed (to avoid large repair costs)

By that definition, i’d say that the American underclass is getting smaller. It seems to be growing only because people want more and more of everything, and many people enjoy being pessemistic, thinking they are worse off than they actually are. My Sociology teacher back in college pointed this out by doing a little survey. Most of the kids in the class (all freshmen) thought they were lower-middle class, there were a few that claimed middle class, and i think only a couple that said either upper-middle or lower. Now, this was a good private college, not a cheap(er) state school. A majority of the students would fall into the middle class, and just slightly more upper-middle than lower-middle.

I’ve always wondered why people were so pessemistic. Perhaps it’s because people look at what they don’t have rather than what they have. Maybe that’s why people think the underclass is growing … because there are more and more things coming out every day that people don’t have. Just think, 25 years ago, almost no one had cable/colour TV, microwaves, machine dishwashers, A/C, etc., and now these things are found in almost every household.

I see what you both mean. I’m not making myself very clear here, am I.

I can’t quite get my meaning across with the large variations in economics from State to State, based on land values and consumable goods prices. In some Northern States, the starting pay would be much greater than in some Southern ones because the cost of living is higher. Like in New York City some people pay $1000 a month for an apartment like on Seinfeld, while in Georgia a similar place would be $500.

Yes, the above is rather confusing. What I meant is that the local businesses, not being industrial, create a large service oriented industry like cashiers, clerks, waitresses, and sales people, but they cut back on benefits like insurance, overtime, stock options, retirement packages and incentives. Most employees work under a 40 hour week.

What has happened here is that the stores cannot keep employees very long because of the decline in benefit packages and low wages. There are always plenty to replace those leaving, but what is happening is that they are starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel in good employees as a result. Instead of getting quality people willing to do a good job with a good attitude, which increases productivity, they are getting those who are not willing to go the extra effort and who often do just enough to get by, which decreases productivity. As soon as something a little better comes available elsewhere, they quit.

As an example: A local Walmart store two years ago, shortly after opening up in it’s new spot, had a great night crew. They stock at night when they are open 24 hours. The crew was polite, fast, neat, kept their music low, sounded happy in the way they got along with each other and were helpful towards customers. Now, the majority of the crew has been replaced as original members located slightly better jobs. They are no longer as quiet, often act sullen, have boom boxes blasting music where they work, clutter the aisles with refuse, are not as fast and no longer very helpful. The few remaining original personnel, like cashiers, on the shift no longer respond to inquiries about the company with glowing reports. They mention low wages and lack of benefits and too much work.

Dentist. A friend of mine went to the dentist to get his teeth worked on. He wears partial plates which need replacing. The estimate for the complete work, including fillings, new plates and bonding is $5000. A root canal and cap cost $1000. The root canal alone was $750. Previously he had some extraction’s done prior to getting his partials, and each one cost $75. Some professionals I know had their teeth whitened and dropped around $1000 to get it done.

Most of the upper middle class and beyond around here have what I like to call the ‘congressional haircuts’, in that they get that manicured politician style that doesn’t budge in the wind. $50 at the several hair stylist places.

monocracy

[quote]
Here is what i consider being just over the poverty line:

  • a roof over the head, with fairly comfortable living conditions (A/C goes a bit beyond ‘fairly comfortable’)

  • enough food to eat

  • decent clothing (not Abercrombie)

  • some small luxuries (TV, microwave, etc.)

  • a low-cost vehicle, used only when needed (to avoid large repair costs) **

    I disagree. Almost every home here has A/C because of the climate. In the summer, the heat and humidity get very intense. Small luxuries are easily available at Walmart prices, including clothing. My mothers income falls below $20,000 a year. Her car is 10 years old. Her home is over 40. Now, she is not dirt poor, but she is just over the national poverty level. Development in her area has bracketed her on one side with a $160,000 home and on the other with a $90,000 one. The current value of hers was $45,000 last year, but due to the new construction raising property values, it is now at $80,000. It was originally bought for $5,000.

I have friends who live in much worse conditions. Most drive cars which they always tinker with and which would never pass a State inspection because they cannot afford to get them fixed. Even with housing assistance and low rent, several do not have cablevision, even at it’s cheapest. They appear to be working all of the time, but in low paying jobs which offer no benefits. Some, with children, both work, with 90% of one jobs earnings going into health insurance. Usually the husband works an additional job so the kids get good clothing and food.

Single people I know have to work often two jobs to support themselves and might make $20,000 a year. Between rents, gas prices, food and insurance costs, all they do is work. None have money to spare for investment programs, stocks, or even vehicles that are only two to 4 years old. Some retire their cars with recaps. They fear getting seriously sick because their affordable insurance leaves them with a large pay out and many have been making payments to the hospitals for years for previous illnesses. Some require medication, which runs them around $200 and up a month. The average rent here for a single bedroom, older apartment is $450 a month. The average power bill, with much economizing is $95 a month. The basic amount of groceries for a single person, no luxuries, store brand hamburger and chicken as meat, runs around $200. Then you add on health insurance at, say $95 a month, phone at $20, city water at $19, basic gasoline for to and from work at $45 to $50, PIP car insurance at $40 and it all adds up. Roughly they spend around $1500 a month. $18,000 a year. On a $20,000 income, that leaves then around $2000 a year. That is $166 a month for everything else, like clothing, home cleaning supplies, car oil, car repairs, soap, toilet paper, beer, the occasional pizza, winter heating, and health insurance deductibles. (Add in $42 for cable, if they have it.)

Not much is it? So, you work two jobs and have no life and wear yourself into exhaustion to earn $30,000 and get the luxuries everyone else seems to have. New cars for these folks are out of the question. So are any of the much advertised toys, like fast boats, ATV’s, and so on. Walmart and Kmart provide cheap video recorders and color TVs, inexpensive clothing and goods so they can get a few luxuries.

Around here, there is a large percentage of the population in 4 cities making below $50,000 a year and a very obvious, powerful percentage making $100,000 and up. You can spot the differences just driving through the residential sections.

I’ve not even included the 40 + million disabled living on Disability and Social Security who make under $14,000 a year.

In order for a friend of mine to make a reasonable wage, he had to daily drive 20 miles into the next city. He earned $10.85 an hour as a Manager, but was on salary. So they worked him 12 hour days, but his pay stopped at 8. They offered him health insurance, but the plan covered hardly anything and required a $175 a month premium. He turned it down. He worked a night job a few years, but exhaustion forced him to stop. When he insisted on better pay and better benefits after 5 years of this, they fired him and replaced him with someone making $7.50 an hour on salary. That person lasted a year. The next one lasted 6 months. I don’t know what happened after that.

My friend works as a manager in a retail store now at a whole $12.00 an hour, 50 hour week, but better benefits. He is as resentful as hell when he sees folks driving new leased cars, buying $110,000 homes, going to the local, high priced butcher and loading up on expensive cuts of meat, towing $24,000 bass boats with a $5,000 outboard, running in the river on $6,000 wave runners, talking about their new mega-mega powerful home computers, the cell phones the wife and kids have, with their own individual numbers and how they dropped $100 last night at Chez-snob for supper. He grits his teeth when they talk about stock and investments and gets real irritated at every TV commercial encouraging you to invest.

You know, I don’t blame him.

WOW! Long post. I’m sorry for being so wordy.

The underclass are the unemployed or low paid.

Its the job markets way of telling them that they did bad in school or studied the wrong thing at college.

A normal distribution curve shows that some people will be very poor and some very rich, taxation and welfare programs aim to smooth it out.

Lack of money is natures way of telling you to have less ( or no ) kids while the rich have more.

In your recent elections at least 50% voted republican, the party of tax CUTS, if most americans wanted a fairer society they wouldn’t have voted democrat would they ? I don’t see the rich going out and handing over money to the poor !

I think a lot of it has to do with expectations, i mean, the little house on the praire ( ok, i know its tv, bear with me ) family had no tv, central heating etc. but didn’t feel poor as it was normal.

Not everyone gets the good jobs, just like not everyone gets the nice girl down the disco.

Its evolution, the best adapted get on, the rest die out.

In Sweden there is no underclass as the rich pay lots of tax so the poor can get lots of welfare payments.

If you want a fairer society vote for it.

My. It must be excellent to be a member of the upper class, well fed, with no problems nor obligations towards one’s lessor off neighbors. There’s an underclass in Sweden, but you just haven’t looked low enough to find it.

BTW I’m neither democrat nor republican, finding a two party system fraught with problems. I vote for who I think is the lessor of two evils.

See, some of your attitude is what is causing the problem here. The upper middle and upper classes buy the congress and defeat most programs designed to help the lower classes dig their way out of their position.

I’d also like to point out that the manager I mentioned has an associate arts degree, graduated high school with honors, but responsibilities have kept him in this area, where he gets what he can in work. He was asked to join the trainee program of a department store, to eventually become a big manager but that required he move out of town. He could not do this.

One of the couples who work two jobs, well both have degrees. One in English lit, one in science but they haven’t helped them out at all. We’ve a large amount of folks hereabouts working as laborers for the county who have degrees that don’t do them any good. I know a teacher who works as a vegetable department manager in a Winn Dixie and he got out of the school system because of the frustration of all sorts of new restrictions and the low pay. He makes more money for his family handling fruits and vegetables and runs less risk of getting sued.

A good friend of mine trained to be a draftsman and got his degree. After a year of being employed by drafting companies only to be shipped out to the construction sites to hammer stakes and not being allowed to draw, he became a local police office. Another friend is a registered nurse with degrees up the ying-yang but pissed off at low pay, cutbacks in help, plus he smokes and you can’t smoke anywhere inside the hospital now, and the increasing potential of patients to sue, he also quit after 6 years to become a police officer.

Most people I meet, if they make over $100,000, and talk to concerning the lower economic folks, have little sympathy for them, or find that the problem is ‘over exaggerated,’ and are more concerned with finding tax shelters, investments and actively lobbying against increased funding in social programs or social security. None donate to the local homeless shelter, but they give freely to local classical theaters, golf functions, donate to the exclusive universities and vote against funds for the local junior college.

Yep. You fit right in. It might bite you in the butt one day.

I see. So people who are richer than me are therefore “beter adapted,” or maybe just “better.” Nice to know that human society is so advanced that we live according to the law of the jungle like animals do, and people that can’t afford to live well can just be allowed to “die out”.

dude, your post was filled with oversimplifications and generalizations. So we should be like Sweden, that racially homogenous, underpopulated European country? Sorry. We’re already the United States.

Jeez. :rolleyes: I sense a Pit thread in the making.

I think another term needs to be added to this debate; the term “working poor” is what I call myself, and others like me who fit into what SpyderA48 and monocracy are talking about.
I work, make a better than minimum wage, but most of my money is taken by my basic living expenses (rent, food, gas, etc.) and unexpected crises (emergency dental work, car breaks down, lose job, etc.) I have a warm, clean place to live, food in my fridge, and a (used) car to drive, but it would be nice to buy meat more than once a week, have the option of buying clothes new instead of at the thrift store, be able to get my teeth cleaned and fixed more than once every ten years, and be able to buy the new glasses that I need. The final equation in “working poor” - my wages haven’t gone up in five years, but my expenses go up every six months or so. I will probably be working poor until I die; the equations are balanced so that I never manage to get ahead.

If Americans vote for a tax cutting party then you will get more natural inequalities, you live in a democracy. Either the majority want tax cuts and don’t care ( possible ? ) or the poor are voting for tax cuts.

I used to think people were nice and life was fair then i tried out the idea that they weren’t, it does seem to fit !

Spyder, did you read my post ?

I wrote :

'Its the job markets way of telling them that they did bad in school or studied the wrong thing at college. ’

Having a degree in something which pays badly means you did the wrong thing at college !

I ain’t no upper class rich dude, I am just saying how it is.

I did business at Uni and found it was bloody useless as loads of other people did it which meant the supply outstripped demand, I now work in IT as it means i can actually get a fairly decent pay packet.

My girlfriend and I rent a small house, have no car (long live the bus ! ) and can’t afford to buy even a small flat.

We ain’t rich but I don’t sit about whinging about how life is unfair, I accept that I studied the wrong thing, that I have to try learn my job better, try get a better paid one, study more etc.

I have a spanish friend who came to england ( no work in spain ) with a degree in physics, worked as an au pair, jacked it in, worked as a cleaner then got a computer job, studied and got a degree in computing part-time and then got a better job.

Did she sit about complaining ?

My mother died when I was young, I had to get any job I could out of UNI as couldn’t live at home because my Father decided to go live in New Zealand near my sister ( who has M.S. ! ) and have lived in some real dodgy areas etc.

The poor could eat healthy, exercise, sit about reading the classics and listening to classical radio stations ( my student life, ahh, i miss it ) BUT they eat crap, get fat, smoke lots, watch telly and whinge that life isn’t fair… sorry about that, needed to get it of my chest.

I now know that if i had studied IT at Uni I would now have a better paid job but that wasn’t anyones mistake but mine.

Sorry about this rant, but really, life , like my grandma says ‘all you can do is make the best of it !’