Feb 3·edited Feb 3Liked by Jeroen van Baar

Not that it takes away much of your point, but I'd like to point out how intensely American this whole perspective is - to anyone else, it's pretty shocking to read "... security offered by middle-class life—exemplified by homeownership and health insurance—is no longer within reach for millions of people in the lower half of the middle class". To me and I assume lots of others, someone who does not have secure access to lodging and healthcare isn't middle class in any meaningful way. Guaranteed housing may not be a very mainstream proposal (yet) even outside of the US, but many would consider secure access to healthcare to be a prerequisite for an advanced economy regardless of which fraction of the population we're talking about. Leaving aside economist lingo for a minute, I think the "lower middle class" you're describing is very much working class to most people, and one that's taken care of quite poorly at that (I might just be repeating your point, I suppose, it's just shocking to me that anyone would have considered that situation middle class at any point).

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Many middle class people are middle class only on an imaginary level. In reality, they are working class people, and as soon as they realise it and maybe mobilise, the better for everybody. Finding comfort in self-deception is not a solution.

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I think you're totally right. The data were shocking to me too when I saw them last week. The tragedy is that this lower segment of the American middle class has slipped into economic precarity almost unnoticed. We really need to revise our assumptions about what economic life is like for the majority of families in this country. I'm reminded of the news that 30% of all homes in the U.S. were bought with cash in 2021, which clearly signals that an upper class is hoarding opportunity https://www.redfin.com/news/all-cash-home-purchases-2021/

That said, I think many other countries are also at risk of seeing the two flywheels spin faster and faster. In the Netherlands, where I'm from, homeownership is becoming a more and more elite practice, and there are several high-profile recent examples of poor population groups being kicked when they're down (e.g. being mistakenly fined for supposed social support fraud). Luckily, there are still many healthy safety nets and backstops in place, but those need to be defended actively especially in light of shifts in voting blocks (e.g. the decline of traditional labor parties).

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