Load 16 Tons and What Do You Get? – JP


If you’re a Middle-Class American who feels like life is getting harder. You are correct. Middle-class Americans are worse off today than they were 20 years ago. That is the finding of a new study.  What does this mean for the future of this country?

We want to thank Marc Abear for this Op-Ed. If you have an Op-Ed or LTE
you would like us to consider, please submit it to Editor@GraniteGrok.com.

The new study comes from researchers at USC and Columbia.  Together, they released a study showing average Americans near retirement are worse off today than 20 years ago.  They started with this question: How are people doing in this country in terms of their economic and physical well-being?  Of particular interest were people who were “middle class” and getting close to retirement.

So here’s their methodology. They used a data set from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Survey.  This survey has over 20,000 Americans who are age 50 and older.  They also used a microsimulation called the Future Elderly Model.    The things included were: physical health, private income, housing, disability, and an estimated future life expectancy.

The researchers compared the data from today with comparable Americans from 20 years ago.  What they found is not surprising to those who live it.  Lower class and lower middle class Americans are largely worse off today than 20 years ago. They are living shorter lives, more sickly and filled with disability.  The ailments include hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Today if you are an average 60 year old American woman in the lower-middle class you will likely live to 84, but 40% of your remaining years will be lived with a disability.  The percentage of life you live disabled has risen since 1994.

Researchers also found lower middle class Americans have flatlined in terms of financial health too.   This is true in terms of income and housing.   The gap between the wealthy and working class is getting wider with respect to home ownership.  The gap has tripled in size as compared to 1994.

The researchers suggest we ought to increase the social safety net for these Americans.  Do you think we can afford to pick up the slack with more Medicaid, housing vouchers and food stamps?  Those are the findings and data coming to us from USC and Columbia Universities.  The key takeaway is: For the average American, things are not good.

About two weeks ago, there was a young man named Oliver Anthony from Farmville, VA that had a song go viral.  It’s called Rich Men North of Richmond  a song about the rich men and politicians in Washington DC.  As of Friday 8/25/23, Rich Men North of Richmond is the most played song in all of America… for good reason.

Oliver gives life to the pain and struggles of the average American of his generation and those of his parents and grandparents; the people included in this study out of USC and Columbia University.  His songs are about being a factory worker, his struggle with addiction and obesity.  He’s giving America a primal scream that things aren’t good, things aren’t right.

He makes you feel what this university data can only say.  Predictably, the media turned it into a fight about Left vs Right.  They call this young man racist and bigoted.  What they’re saying is a crock of excrement.  Listen to the song for yourself and you’ll hear that.

Oliver said in response to his sudden fame,  “I appreciate the compliments, but … I’m not a good musician. I hardly know my way around the guitar. My singing’s OK. That’s not what made this song a success.  It’s about you, and the struggles in your life. That’s what’s made this what it is.”

You can say things with facts and data.  But the struggling of the average American you can now feel.  Bill Clinton and Republicans in Congress  absolutely gutted factory towns  across the country when they allowed China into the World Trade Organization 20 years ago.  Researchers at MIT and others have proven that.

NAFTA, now called USMCA, is doing much the same.  Chinese companies are now planting themselves in Mexico to skirt tariffs and take advantage of us and our workers.

America’s social fabric is fraying. Data show that we’re less connected to each other now than we were 20 or 50 years ago  There’s research on that stemming from the book Bowling Alone.

Our children are increasingly being raised in single families.  This includes 49% of black children, 28% of Hispanic kids, and 21% of white children. https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/families/children.html  Compare that to data from 1960, when only 7% of kids lived with just one parent.

These facts and data show things are not ok in this country.  We need to center our conversations on that topic.  It is time to focus on what is true , not just what we feel.  Maybe feelings have a place in the conversation.  Maybe we need to scream that things aren’t ok through our music, through our tears, to our politicians.

So what do we do about this? What do we do with a country that is not well?  When the working people in small towns and big cities are in trouble, in pain, are getting poorer and more desperate will we throw them an anchor like Bidenomics or a life preserver like a return to what made America once prosperous?

Las Vegas News Magazine

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