homepage logo

Cafe Society to discuss the pressures on the American middle class

By Staff | Mar 11, 2016

The next Cafe Society discussion on March 15 will focus on “The role of the middle class in our society, and the pressures it is facing.” Analysts from several professional disciplines using a wide variety of data sources indicate that the traditional middle class is no longer dominant among social classes in America. This is a matter of concern, although there is little consensus on the implications.

These informal weekly discussions are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. in the Rumsey Room of the Shepherd University Student Center each Tuesday morning. Pre-registration is not required and there are no fees or charges.

Cafe facilitator Mike Austin said, “There is no doubt that our society is stratifying and the critical balance between social classes is changing, perhaps irretrievably. Upward mobility, long considered an American birthright, may prove to be for many of our citizens a false hope. Many believe that the disavowal of traditional political party candidates and the intensity of vitriolic campaign rhetoric in the current Presidential campaign are a reflection of the apprehension and anger of America voters. Regardless of what the actual numbers might say, the belief widely held in the shrinking, but still influential middle class that they are being manipulated by the super rich on one hand, and unfairly burdened as the only class paying taxes, on the other feeds the growing unrest.”

Austin continued, “A vibrant middle class has long been the dynamo that drives our economy, and now in the era of globalization, those of other nations. With the collapse of the speculative real estate and financial markets in 2008, long nurtured savings and cautious investments were wiped out. We are finally, just now climbing out of the subsequent recession. But there is a troubling manifestation of PTSD even in this realm. Stability and security, important attributes of middle class confidence reflected in their home ownership was the first casualty.”

He continued, “The second was faith in the credibility and fairness of the federal government that was seen as bending over backwards to throw a life line to wealthy speculators while ignoring the many struggling families.”

Austin added, “The traditional middle class has not lost its relevance as an arbiter in the market place. Its members are the consumers who buy the goods and services from which fortunes are made — fortunes that raise campaign funds, hire lobbyist and pay for the lawyers and accountants that protect the prerogatives of the upper class. Its reduced numbers may not prove to weaken or diminish the ability of the middle class members to continue to function as the cognitive, thoughtful opinion makers in our learning institutions, in sophisticated professions, and most importantly, the media in all of its forms.”

Those with topic suggestions or who want more information should contact Austin at 304-876-0598 or michael.austin@frontiernet.