This month my youngest daughter, who is almost 3-years-old, is going off to full-time daycare/preschool. Can I get an amen and a Hallelujah?! I now have a little more time to myself rather than having to do work and watch my daughter at the same time or take her over to her Grandmother's house to be watched. She loves letters and numbers(it's like a hobby for her to play with an abacus, don't mind me…just a proud momma basking in her child's glow). However, the cost of having that time so she can be in school is a little under $1000 a month. With my older girl in Third grade and having her after school activities and me and my medical bills (insert link to last blog here), it's kinda tight in my household. I do feel under a lot of pressure.
I am not alone:
In all, 85 percent of middle class Americans say it is more difficult now than a decade ago to maintain their standard of living. Some 62 percent say a lot of the blame lies with Congress. A slight majority say a lot lies with banks and other financial institutions. Just 8 percent blame the middle class itself.
"The job market is changing, our living standards are falling in the middle, and middle-income parents are now afraid that their children will be worse off than they are," says Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison economics professor who specializes in income inequality.
He said that many middle-income families have taken a big hit in the past decade as health care costs increase, mid-wage jobs disappear due to automation and outsourcing and college tuition mounts for those seeking to build credentials to get better work….
"These are the disaffected middle class who work hard and play by the rules of society, but increasingly see their situation declining by forces beyond their control," Smeeding said in an interview. "No matter who is president, the climb back up for the middle class and the recovery will be slow and often painful."
A lot of "middle class" families feel the pinch. We don't feel secure in our mortgaged homes, car payments, children's after school activities and short vacations to the beach each summer. But I was reading another blog that really got me in touch with something in this political season we have rarely spoken about: the poor. And it came from a source that was unexpected: a young woman who in her opinion, has just reached the middle class:
"I’m not trying to diminish anyone’s experience. I know that dipping below a standard of living you’ve always enjoyed will feel pretty crappy. My point is that, comparatively speaking, it’s not actually all that crappy. Many middle class people, particularly those who have never really been poor, don’t seem to see that there’s a whole other side to the economy that they never experience, like this writer who struggles to pay for friends’ weddings. I’ve met people who have spent 20 years in food service, with no health care, no bonuses and usually kids to support.
There are middle class people who say they just can’t live in D.C. or New York City on $40,000 a year, but there are also people in those same places living on minimum wage. Take a look at the invisible people around you who make your life tick -- your cleaners, the person making your drinks, your interns -- and imagine how they make ends meet.
It’s a choice that you make to feel disadvantaged. If you make $33,000 a year, the truth is, you are actually in the top 50% of wage-earners."
We seem to forget as we drive to work in our mini vans and 5 year old sedans, go shopping for discount clothes at Marshalls, and have pizza night that our lives are pretty good in the middle class. It may not be as easy as it was, but it could be a lot worse. There are people from the middle class who are truly becoming poor. They have lost jobs and can't find one close to comparable. It's really tough out there. But for the most part, as this young woman says, there are a lot of people who are in a lot worse position than the middle class. We as a society need to count our blessings, which includes me, and see what we have and thank the Lord we have it. I can afford, through working hard, to put my child in preschool for the week. It's gonna be tough and it is harder than it once was, but I can do it while still living in my house that I own. True poverty is not being addressed because we're so concerned about our own diminishing reserves that we can't see our own wealth.