One of the big political arguments swirling again this season is “how do we rebuild and restore the Middle Class?”
The next question for me is “what income range is considered Middle Class?”
I’m no economist but I think of Boeing Machinists as being Middle Class type folks. I would guess their incomes range from $40,000 per year to $80,000 per year or roughly $20/hour to $40/hour. And even though they are highly trained, many of them are not college educated.
So for the sake of my argument that is how I will define Middle Class.
Once you establish the income range you just look around for the jobs that pay that kind of money. Or maybe you look for the jobs that used to pay that kind of money and follow that with where did those jobs go?
As a resident of the Puget Sound region in Washington State Boeing is a big part of our economy. For many years it was the only game in town. Fortunately we lucked out when Bill Gates and Paul Allen decided to keep Microsoft local, Howard Schultz opened Starbucks in Seattle; and again when Jeff Bezos headquartered Amazon in town.
So we have four very different businesses that produce and incredible amount of wealth in the region with very different operating models. One that manufactures a product, one that produces a digital product and two that provide services.
Without a college degree in computer science or business management, most remaining Microsoft employees struggle to make it into the middle class. The bulk of the Amazon and Starbucks employees also just bump the bottom of the range at best.
What is missing is the manufacturing jobs like Boeing offers. And what we know about Boeing is that they are also looking to reduce the cost of their workforce as well by opening factories in locations where the cost of labor is lower.
Is anyone surprised that I have an opinion about this dilemma?
Since our government bought into the “world economy” argument the American manufacturing sector has been withering and along with it the Middle Class.
The jobs most often associated with the Middle Class in the past were family wage factory jobs that have been shipped over seas to build up the economies of our trading partners. The adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA signaled the exit of many manufacturing jobs to Mexico. American participation in World Trade organizations encourage relocation of previously American jobs to third world economies to bolster those countries as trading partners but at the expense of American manufacturing jobs.
In most cases the jobs that go overseas are jobs that require training but not significant education.
The jobs that remain here are the ones that are tied to raw materials or require a highly trained and educated workforce; and even those raw materials jobs are at risk as the government is regulating many of them out of existence.
By today’s standards the Middle Class jobs are the public sector employers like governments and school systems. Locally we have city and county governments, we have Policemen, Fire Fighters and Public Works employees and at the state and federal levels we have the Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, Department of Ecology, Department of Education…..yadayadayada. Is it any wonder that the Middle Class has changed so dramatically?
The Middle Class swapped private sector jobs that produced the highest standard of living and best quality products in the world for public sector jobs that suck up the resources of society and produce nothing but a bill.
The Middle Class today is the Bureaucrat Class with the Service Sector groveling for a handout.
The cost of government skyrocketed at every level while the private sector industries our country was famous for have fled. Even a country boy like me could see this as it was happening but the rationale for world trade was too deep for me to grasp.
Whether it’s big business or big government, both political parties still champion the world trade argument even though it sells American workers down the river. There is no safe haven with either the Democrats or Republicans.
If you really want to know what happened to the Middle Class look at China where economic development is producing record numbers of millionaires even in this depressed economy. Our Middle Class moved overseas!
If our goal is to return America to the prosperity we enjoyed for many years after WW2 we have to examine what our government did to cause the exodus and systematically reverse it. We will also have to analyze the political ramifications to our trading partners and make value judgments. Bringing the private sector Middle Class back to America will have international implications.