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America’s Middle Class Crisis: The Sobering Facts

Daily Ticker

Two recessions, a couple of market crashes, and stubbornly high unemployment are all wreaking havoc on America's middle class.

In the accompanying interview, The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task discusses the state of the middle class with Sherle Schwenninger, director of economic growth and American strategy programs at the New America Foundation. Schwenninger's recent report "The American Middle Class Under Stress" has some stunning facts that highlight the struggles the average American is having getting a decent-paying job and keeping up with rising cost of living.

Here are just some of the sobering facts:

-- There are 8.5 million people receiving unemployment insurance and over 40 million receiving food stamps.

-- At the current pace of job creation, the economy won't return to full employment until 2018.

-- Middle-income jobs are disappearing from the economy. The share of middle-income jobs in the United States has fallen from 52% in 1980 to 42% in 2010.

-- Middle-income jobs have been replaced by low-income jobs, which now make up 41% of total employment.

-- 17 million Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor's degree.

-- Over the past year, nominal wages grew only 1.7% while all consumer prices, including food and energy, increased by 2.7%.

-- Wages and salaries have fallen from 60% of personal income in 1980 to 51% in 2010. Government transfers have risen from 11.7% of personal income in 1980 to 18.4% in 2010, a post-war high.

The bottom line is simple says Schwenninger: The middle class is shrinking, which threatens the social composition and stability of the world's biggest economy. "I worry that we're becoming a barbell society - a lot of money wealth and power at the top, increasing hollowness at the center, which I think provides the stability and the heart and soul of the society... and then too many people in fear of falling down."

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