Just Merveilleux

Life at № 42

The Middle Class Canard & Debate Manipulation

It’s election season and they’re at it again. Politicians and the media all using the term middle class. That’s become the everyman term, especially in the Americas. When I was a boy, middle class had a very precise significance; it was used to refer to the bourgeoisie. That’s from the french Bourg, meaning town, so, town-folk.

In the classical context the nobility owned the countryside and agricultural lands and the town-folk were the professionals, people in commerce and so forth. The working class were people employed by the nobility and the bourgeoisie. (Generally under not entirely excellent conditions.)

Up until a couple of decades ago the line was very clear. Workers considered themselves working class. Doctors and lawyers considered themselves middle class, and business owners were categorized according to the size of their concern and the number of people they employed. But here comes the problem, in our allegedly post-class society, although the economic hierarchy hasn’t genuinely changed, the propagandistic efforts of people in power have created the myth of The Middle.

I’ve noticed that almost anyone who’s asked to self-categorize now answers middle-class. A couple of years ago I remember John Prescott interviewing a group of benefit recipients living on a council estate who were all self-described ‘middle-classers’. It seems people believe that if they’re not starving, and also not related to the royal family- then they are The Middle.

The greatest danger of this error in categorization is of the political variety. It distorts the real distribution of resources. By doing so we suddenly have swathes of people who are actually living financially marginal lives defending (and voting for) policies that only benefit a tiny sector of society who are already exceptionally privileged as compared to the rest.

I found an interesting recent graphic of income distribution in the UK that illustrates what I’m saying:

ukearningschart

Vertical is income, horizontal is percentage of the population. One of the most interesting figures on the chart is that 50% of UK workers live on up to £14 thousand per year (that’s £12,474.72 after tax and national insurance contributions.) Even more interestingly, a full 90% of British workers live on up to (meaning not necessarily a full) £28 thousand per year. Even one who makes the full £28k, after taxes only takes home £22k. That’s not counting property taxes!!!

With the poverty line in the UK being drawn at around £9 thousand per year, that means that a massive proportion of the population is only one accident, illness, divorce or job-loss away from joining the ranks of the officially poor. Pardon me, but what sort of Middle Class is that?

povertuk

All of this is why the left has to change the debate and make people understand what the real situation is. I hope Jeremy Corby’s election is a sign people in Britain are starting to see through Tory propaganda. The propaganda that has made everyone believe they’re part of The Middle, when the middle they’re referring to is actually the people in the top 5%.

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25 comments on “The Middle Class Canard & Debate Manipulation

  1. makagutu
    September 29, 2015

    Quite informative post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. acflory
    September 29, 2015

    Those figures are disturbing, to say the least. I wonder how Australia fared in real terms. I /think/ we have a generally higher standard of living, but I heard just recently that about 100K are counted as homeless – i.e. staying with friends or relatives – and about 5% of those are living on the street. I guess they would fall off the bottom of the graph entirely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      September 29, 2015

      There are small differences between the developed countries, emphasis on small. Scandinavia has the best rates of equality, Britain the US and Mediterranean countries have the worse. Australia, France, Germany et al are somewhere in the middle- but still highly unequal.

      Like

      • acflory
        September 29, 2015

        If we adhere to the cult of the individual, there will never be true equality, but you’d think we could manage equality of opportunity a bit better. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      September 29, 2015

      Just found some interesting figures on Australia:
      “The top 10% of households own 45% of all wealth, most of the remainder of wealth is owned by the next 50% of households, while the bottom 40% of households own just 5% of all wealth.”
      That does seem to indicate, on its face, more of a middle class. Unless they’re being very loose with the income categories. I’m always a bit dubious when I can see exact figures. In any event it still means that a very important number of households are in the pool that shares only 5% of Australia’s wealth.

      Like

      • acflory
        September 29, 2015

        Those figures would look a whole lot worse if you factor in that indigenous people are the absolute outliers, with most communities being well below the poverty line.

        Overall though, I think we may have a bigger middle class, or at least a more fluid middle class.

        The Daughter and I consider ourselves to be middle class because we’re well educated and have our own home. But if you judge us by our income alone, we’d be struggling, and I suspect there are a lot of people in similar circumstances.

        Like

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        September 29, 2015

        Absolutely. We’re the same. We have assets but not a large income. The nature of my business means I can make a ton one month and then nothing for the following 11 months. No stability whatsoever.

        Like

      • acflory
        September 29, 2015

        Maybe this is a good thing? Maybe if we become the norm, class barriers will eventually become irrelevant! Maybe. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        September 29, 2015

        We’re far from the norm. Assets mean the ability to leverage and do business. Unfortunately, there’s a likelihood 50% of the populace will never be able to have what used to be called immovable assets.

        Like

      • acflory
        September 30, 2015

        Yes, we’re seeing that already. The Great Australia Dream used to be to own your own house, and it was achievable in my generation and the next, but young people of my daughter’s age [28] may never be able to afford a house of their own.

        We don’t have enough housing stock and what we have is very expensive. Even if they can save up for a 10% deposit, they’ll be competing with a lot of other people for the right to pay off a mortgage for the rest of their lives.:(

        Like

  3. Hariod Brawn
    September 29, 2015

    Brilliantly informative post.

    The doublespeak of British politicians of the Centre-Right – i.e. almost all of them – aided by a largely Right-Wing media, cultivate this myth of a ‘Middle Britain’, in which nuclear families live contentedly, the men proudly washing their environmentally-friendly Volkswagen’s [ 😉 ] on Sunday mornings whilst whistling the National Anthem, the women sure-footedly smashing through the glass-ceiling on Monday morning. Apparently, we live our lives full of ‘aspiration’, and we are correct to do so, or so say those in charge, as therein lies our continued contentment – never quite having what we want! Don’t question it.

    In reality, the diesel Passat is harming us and our children, even if we were ‘lucky’ enough to be able to borrow the money to buy one. The driveway upon which it is parked is subject to a 40 year-long mortgage charge because, clearly, it was in our best interests to keep the U.K. Ponzi scheme known as ‘the housing market’ alive and in rude health. And the accoutrements of Middle Class-ship which bedeck our poky hovels arrive courtesy of MasterCard. Our Middle Class children are almost entirely disenfranchised, having been saddled with debts of around £40k following their higher education, with virtually no prospect of buying a home, even if they are able to secure a career worthy of their skills and knowledge. This is what ‘Middle Britain’ really is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      September 29, 2015

      The second you add the credit/debt variable to this then it all becomes seriously frightening. And I don’t just mean home/car payments. That 50% of people on up to £14k per year are often the victims of short-term loans at exorbitant rates.

      We must start taking apart the language of manipulation used successfully by right wing politicians. I just watched Corby’s speech and it seems to me that’s precisely what he intends to do 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        September 29, 2015

        Yes, I watched Corbyn’s speech too – a tad unpolished and faltering, for which he can be forgiven, but thankfully devoid of the Orwellian doublespeak so beloved of Blairite New Labour. I just hope he lasts long enough to kill the latter off once and for all, and Labour can once again stand for values of The Left. It’s going to be tough for an old boy like him withstanding the forces against him, but this is his moment, and I hope he is strong enough to seize it.

        Like

  4. inspiredbythedivine1
    September 29, 2015

    Superb post and very informative.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. roughseasinthemed
    September 29, 2015

    OK. I wish to question the graph to start with. Any graph that stops at £73k is unrealistic. FFS I was in the top whatever percent nearly fifteen years ago according to that graph, but what about all the ones on £100K plus? And that’s just public sector.

    I’m not arguing with your basic premise, just that graph doesn’t indicate the broad picture.

    Interestingly one friend here is going back to the UK, and mentioned the minimum weekly income is £183 or 185 or something. Amazing. No wonder I’ll never get a pension. Because a hundred and eighty whatever is what it takes to live to escape poverty. Which matches up to the £9000 a year poverty trap. I merely recount gossip because I can’t believe that the government would top up incomes like that.

    The UK does my head in. It is totally fucked.

    Oh, and I’m middle class 😉 I think 😀

    Like

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      September 29, 2015

      Sorry I cut down the picture! But only because where it stops only mathematically implies that the +100k people you mention are part of the tiny minority who fall into the same category of the +73k and also the +millions people. In fact, anyone making more than 46.5k per year falls into that tiny percentage who have significantly more prospects than the other 99%.
      I’m good at doing numbers, but awful at explaining them 🙂

      Like

      • roughseasinthemed
        September 29, 2015

        Quite. I on the other hand did performance management for years and cutting down graphs is not the done thing 😀

        Like

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        September 29, 2015

        😛

        Like

      • Mr. Merveilleux
        September 29, 2015

        Btw, the basic state pension for people who retired before 2015 is only £135 p/week. That’s what Mike gets + an earnings related affair which increases it by 90 (but his generation was the last to pay into earnings related.) Imagine how far that would’ve gotten someone in Sotogrande…!?!

        Liked by 1 person

      • roughseasinthemed
        September 30, 2015

        I should have added that I’m in the poverty section now though 😧

        From riches to rags?

        only? £135? Can’t remember what Gib is, £43 a week or something farcical. SERPS I think Mike paid into, yes? Not sure if I got that option, if I did I obviously rejected it 😀

        Like

  6. siriusbizinus
    September 29, 2015

    Is the graph indicative of individual incomes or household incomes? I’m only asking because in the States, plenty of conservatives will use a graph of household income instead of individual incomes. The reason for that is that it will inflate “average” wealth to make it appear that people are doing better than they actually are.

    What this means is that if your graph is household income (that is, the income of everyone living in the same place), then things are even worse.

    Like

  7. appletonavenue
    September 29, 2015

    I was raised “Working Class” which doesn’t even get mentioned anymore My dad worked 7 days a week and supported a family of 10 on a single wage. He was part of a union and made enough, considering he was not a college grad.

    My husband and I are working class people (though retired). But I rarely hear the term. Seems there are new classifications: Ultra Rich, Rich, Getting By, or Poor. Both of these last classes are doomed since there is no longer a ladder to climb for the working class. Now the Working Class is fast becoming part of the “Working Poor”.

    Getting the media and the politicians to change the way we are classified. I’d like them to stop classifying people altogether. Gay, straight, working class, poor, black, white, Christian, Muslim, Jew. We do not need these labels. Labels only serve to separate people. Which the politicabout to change.ians are not

    Liked by 2 people

  8. appletonavenue
    September 30, 2015

    Sorry for all the errors in my comment. Apparently I have forgotten how to type.

    Like

  9. Nick Johnson
    October 1, 2015

    Thanks for this informative post. Inequality and poverty are a clearly a big problem in the UK and elsewhere. Contrary to the conventional wisdom propounded by Blair and the Tories, equality of opportunity is partly determined by the degree of equality of outcome (incomes and wealth). This can happen through the extra support that the rich can provide for their children, improving their life chances etc So redistribution through taxation and better public services can promote greater equality of opportunity. This argument needs making. Clearly politicians should be wary of the changes to incentives that taxation creates, but the point remains.

    Like

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