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"Three Lost Decades" – How The American Middle Class Is 20% Poorer Now Vs. 1984

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by Mike Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

Like so many other things in popular American culture, this quaint notion of a “middle class” in the U.S. is at this point nothing more than a myth; a rapidly fading fantasy from a bygone era. As myself and many others have noted for quite some time, the decimation of the middle class began long ago. It really got started in the early 1970?s after Nixon defaulted on the gold standard and financialization began to take over the American economy. Median real wages haven’t increased since that time and the rest is history.

Although the evolutionary process toward oligarchy began long ago, its finishing touches have been applied in recent years. This has been easily achieved by the Federal Reserve and U.S. government’s response to the financial crisis, which was and continues to be characterized by an intentional funneling of all the nation’s wealth into the hands of their patrons; the 0.01%. As the chart below demonstrates clearly (and as I highlighted in the post: Where Does the Real Problem Reside? Two Charts Showing the 0.01% vs. the 1%), it is the tiny oligarch class that is reaping all of the benefits.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 10.38.07 AM

The was further demonstrated in full color recently in a report by Oxfam International, which showed that 85 people have as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion on earth. There is nothing moral, decent or “free market” about such an outcome. It can only happen in a world characterized by militarism, exploitation, cronyism and fraud. We are living in a global feudalism.

In case you needed any more proof of our current predicament, the Washington Post notes that:

Nostalgia is just about the only thing the middle class can still afford. That’s because median wealth is about 20 percent lower today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was in 1984.


Yes, that’s three lost decades.


Now, as you might expect, the middle class has been hit particularly hard by the Great Recession and the not-so-great recovery. It’s all about stocks and houses. The middle class doesn’t have much of the former, but it does have a lot of the latter. And that’s bad news, because, even though the crash decimated both, real estate hasn’t come back nearly as much as equities have. So the top 1 percent, who hold more of their wealth in stocks, have made up more of the ground they lost. But, as the Russell Sage Foundation points out, the slow housing recovery means that, in 2013, median households were still 36 percent poorer than they were a decade earlier.


Though, to put that in depressing perspective, it’s still a heckuva lot better than households in the bottom 25 percent, whose wealth never grew during the good times, and then plunged 60 percent during the bad ones. That’s because, for both the middle and working classes, real wages have been stagnant the past 30 years, and housing equity has taken a nosedive.

So what if the stock market is up? Most Americans are too dead broke to own equities, and in fact, an increasing amount need debt and welfare just to survive. Meanwhile, Obama is hosting $32,000 a plate fundraisers all over California, while the median wage in America is only $27,000.

That’s just how the oligarchs like it.

Full article here.


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Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:16 | 5027654 PartysOver
PartysOver's picture


Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:25 | 5027693 power steering
power steering's picture

I blame Nixon

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:34 | 5027728 A Nanny Moose
A Nanny Moose's picture

Best I can ascertain, Nixon was just reacting to ~200 years of government monetary horsepiss. Within the Untied States, the ball started rolling with the original Coinage Act of 1792, and pegging of gold:silver at 15:1. Gresham's Law took over from there.

This is not to say that monetary horsepiss does not predated the Untied States.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:59 | 5027867 max2205
max2205's picture

I hope they serve a $32,000 crow for dinner

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 14:01 | 5028206 Juno Rock
Juno Rock's picture

Past due for revolution 2.0

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 15:03 | 5028421 Richard Chesler
Richard Chesler's picture

I can see how this way of dealing with cocksucking CEO's could get some wheels...


Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:59 | 5027854 Ariadne
Ariadne's picture

Nixon was a patsy.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:35 | 5027740 PrecipiceWatching
PrecipiceWatching's picture

Who is? "Winning"?

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 15:51 | 5028937 Colonel Klink
Colonel Klink's picture

According to Warren Buffet, his class.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 13:00 | 5027868 tempo
tempo's picture

1 of killers of USC Chinese EE grad student was illegal. Parents having problems coming to USA to pickup body. Open borders, no questions asked if illegal,(that's compassion,love and acceptance per Jesus) but God forbid if someone wants to come here legally.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 13:29 | 5028001 CheapBastard
CheapBastard's picture

That's one sad story. Walking home after a study session beaten to death with baseball bats by Hispanics ... where's Al and Jesse?


Where's Barry's, "If I had a son...." speech?


I guess the thugs were hanging out in Jerry Brown's "Safety Zone."

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:16 | 5027655 q99x2
q99x2's picture

Bankers stole my money.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:23 | 5027686 James
James's picture

Bankers stole my currency.

I still have my money.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:17 | 5027658 lordylord
lordylord's picture

Stop paying your taxes.  You will be 20-30% richer instantly!

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:17 | 5027660 pods
pods's picture

The US on whole has been increasing their standard of living with credit since the 80s.  

At least in 1984 our chocolate rations were higher?


Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:25 | 5027692 Smegley Wanxalot
Smegley Wanxalot's picture

As were our government cheese rations.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:35 | 5027734 A Nanny Moose
A Nanny Moose's picture

Mmmm...Wood pulp Velveeta

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 15:20 | 5027794 toady
toady's picture

Actually, the govment cheese was pretty good back in the late 70s & early 80's. Real Wisconsin cheddar,  not the "proccesed cheese food" of today.

Reagan years were when they started the "deficits don't matter" stuff. Lots of stuff cutting off middle class related government programs for everyone post-boomer. I particularly remember when they passed the stuff raising the SS retirement age just before my birthday. It was the first time I realized I would never see any SS money.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:49 | 5027799 RaceToTheBottom
RaceToTheBottom's picture

And your meat intake changed from steaks to pink slime....


Thu, 07/31/2014 - 13:01 | 5027880 SheepDog-One
SheepDog-One's picture

Today 'increased standard of living' = 'bought a bunch of shit you don't need on credit'

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:19 | 5027664 Quinvarius
Quinvarius's picture

I think the top 1% is about to catch down with their USD, stock market, and banking system paper based wealth.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:53 | 5027817 PrecipiceWatching
PrecipiceWatching's picture

So can you convince my wife, that my idea to convert a chunk of our Fiat into Missouri Farmland, is actually a good idea?

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 13:58 | 5028190 toady
toady's picture

It's been my experience that there is no convincing the wife. If she doesn't want to do it, she won't do it.

The only thing I've had any luck with is having her mother or friends change her mind.

Like gold and silver. Tried to talk her into buying some many times over many months. I didn't like leaving money sitting in the bank.

She was dead set against it. No reason, no articulating why not, just completely ignoring my reasoning, then saying I'm crazy and dismissing the subject.

So I did it anyway.

Like a year later her mom tells her she heard about buying as a hedge against inflation. She talked to her friends at work and they were mixed, some for, some against.

So she comes to me with this great idea. We should buy some gold! Her mom said so!

She didn't even remember anything I said.

So, if you can convince her mom or friends on the DL, that'll be your best bet

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 14:29 | 5028271 PrecipiceWatching
PrecipiceWatching's picture

Isn't there a song "Hard Headed Woman"

Aren't they all?

Yes, your approach is probably the correct one.

Alternatively, if I can get one of the Fox Red Eye or The Five mouthy goofballs to pontificate at length on the wisdom of real assets, specifically farmland then I might get somewhere.   LOL.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 16:19 | 5029152 Chief Wonder Bread
Chief Wonder Bread's picture

You have to make appeal to the female's 'Nesting Instinct'.

"hedge against inflation". See, that works.

"Gold going to $5,000/oz." Doesn't register.

Come to think about it...

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 14:52 | 5028486 froze25
froze25's picture

You need to make her want to do it.  You can't do it through logic and reason thats not the "woman" way.  Gals its just true, you listen to strangers before your husbands.  You PrecipiceWatching need to do it in a way she will respond.  Go on vacation there, do some "farming"/gardening on your own property.  Show her the beauty of the area, how nice the folks are...Do a class or some shit with her there.  Its not about what you do its about that you are doing it together.  

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:56 | 5027840 yogibear
yogibear's picture

Having down weeks used to normal. Now people freak out with a few down days.

The Federal Reserve has created  this rigged market that has to keep going up.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 14:41 | 5028413 froze25
froze25's picture

And thats not good, the 1%ers are the inovators with a stake in the success in the country.  They create the buinsesses. They have wealth but not enough to be Global, they can't just up and leave.  The .01%ers are the ones that need to be dispised if they deserve it. 

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:23 | 5027678 oudinot
oudinot's picture

A few weeks of markets like today's and the 1% problem will be solved.  They will lose all their money and we can all be equally poor.

Schadenfraude anyone?

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:22 | 5027682 dobermangang
Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:23 | 5027684 Smegley Wanxalot
Smegley Wanxalot's picture

I get the point and have no doubt it is true, but the scale for the brown and blue lines at the bottom of the Income Inequality chart is ridiculous.  They could have quintupled and still looked flat as a board.  They could have also have fallen 99.9% and still looked flat as a board.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:26 | 5027698 starman
starman's picture

And this is exactly how one goes from Capitalism to Socialism!

Obama was really the sign if the times thus the reason for he's election by the masses!  

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 13:10 | 5027914 JimS
JimS's picture

Starman: Our USofA has not operated under capitalism since the Fed was established in 1913. We've been run under a Banking Oligarchy since. Whenever a select group of people (in this case bankers) obtain the privilege to create and regulate money this is what you deserve: booms, bubbles, and busts. This cycle is operated for a very, very small group, who are wealthy beyond comprehension. This credit-creation money system has been operational for 600+ years. This system operates perfectly under a precious metal "money" system as well. Read the "Lost Science of Money" and you will see why.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:29 | 5027712 LawsofPhysics
LawsofPhysics's picture

Just wait.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:34 | 5027731 NoWayJose
NoWayJose's picture

A body in motion will accelerate downward - especially when pushed by bankers.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:31 | 5027720 Bear
Bear's picture

I'm finally glad to out of the Middle Class ... I never like that description anyway. 

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:32 | 5027727 Atomizer
Atomizer's picture

Another failed quagmire

NWO Dead on Arrival

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:35 | 5027729 I Write Code
I Write Code's picture

One thing, the bottom 25% may have no "wealth" but I guess they never did, and they are for the most part much "better off" today being eligible for all kinds of welfare and subsidies.  Of course they haven't paid any income tax for twenty years - but do pay social security if they work, on the books.  But overall I believe they are somewhat better off today than in 1984, it's the middle-class, say about 33 percentile to 98 precentile, who have really been impacted.

It was STEM workers and construction workers who have seen their wages most impacted, but I guess there is a whole class of administrative white-collar types, who are now almost entirely unemployed.

And of course public sector workers are doing pretty well on their wages, and ABSURDLY well on their retirement packages - which may escape being capture on some of these statistics, which is a good thing as they would make it look like private enterprise workers are doing much better than they are.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:36 | 5027745 tickhound
tickhound's picture

What we need to do is lift all boats.
Without our help they couldn't get LOANS for CARS.
It could be much worse.
We need to invest in education.
Once corporations start hiring...
Recovery is around the corner, the market tells us this.
We can help solve this crisis by fixing roads, bridges, infrastructure.
It's all because of a few fat cat bankers.
We need to change Washington.
How hypocritical of people protesting corporations and banks when they own iPhones and use debit cards.
What is it these people want?
We need more philanthropy.
It's the healthcare system that's the problem.
There are plenty of opportunities out there.
Corporations are now hiring.
We need more skilled workers.
Low interest rate LOANS for higher education.
Now that we are out of recession and QE has been taken off the table...

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:38 | 5027749 oudinot
oudinot's picture

Without a robust middle class, and the US does not have that now (Canada is not far behind), the tax receipts will slowly dry up, there is no more room to tax higher : economic implosion is inevitable.  When? 

Sometime in the future.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:42 | 5027758 junction
junction's picture

Everyone of the 316 or so million Americans has one right where they are equal to the .01 %: their share of the 17+ trillion dollar National Debt.  Today, that works out to $55,301.64 per American.

This message is approved by The Man From Kenya.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 13:31 | 5028020 oudinot
oudinot's picture

It's only $19,560.00 per American if we include our dogs and cats.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:43 | 5027768 SmittyinLA
SmittyinLA's picture

(excluding debt)

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:44 | 5027770 madcows
madcows's picture

Is Hildaleast in the top 0.1 or 0.001%.  Must be the top 0.1.  she's poor.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:56 | 5027835 Ariadne
Ariadne's picture

Yes she is. 99% have more time left than that wizened beastie.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 12:48 | 5027791 Postal
Postal's picture

See, they're doing it wrong. We should all get a gov't job to grab seed money for a phantom corp to be listed on the NYSE. :)


Thu, 07/31/2014 - 13:01 | 5027878 Itchy and Scratchy
Itchy and Scratchy's picture

20% poorer? I'll take it!

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 13:24 | 5027962 Cthonic
Cthonic's picture

  From the article: "But there's a big caveat here. Households don't necessarily stay in the same percentile from one year to the next, let alone for 30 straight."  Then they spin how people go to school and save... implying upward mobility.  So you know, that just the opposite thing is socially taboo and unmentionable, because it is so prevalent: downward mobility.  That's the new normal that the mainstream dances around.  There was an Edward Jones advisor wandering the neighborhood yesterday~ I just looked at him like he was a plague/ebola/smallpox victim and stepped back inside.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 13:09 | 5027919 AnAnonymous
AnAnonymous's picture

It is funny. An 'american' middle class can never go poor enough to be considered no longer middle class.

The 'american' middle class is not going poorer. The 'american' middle class is decreasing in numbers, those who were middle class are turning to the poor.

The 'american' middle class way of life has saturated the world, there is not enough resources to sustain an 'american' middle class that large.
Therefore, for the 'american' middle class tp survive, some of it must be sacrificed.

'Americans' consider their 'american'middle class status as some sort of radioactive marker that shall last for thousands of years.

When you were middle class and now poor, you are no longer middle class, you are poor.

'American' societies are not supposed to work to the benefit of the poor, poor in an 'american' society exist to be farmed and increase the welfare of the middle class.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 13:54 | 5028152 PrecipiceWatching
PrecipiceWatching's picture

Fuck off.


Know nothing fool.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 15:33 | 5028785 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


The 'american' middle class is not going poorer. The 'american' middle class is decreasing in numbers, those who were middle class are turning to the poor.

Those new 'american' poors relish on their former status as part of the King class aka We The People aka the 'american' middle class and are unable to accept their new status. They were tossed out of the bowl and over the side of the boat, landing under the bus and ending up on the wrong side of the traintracks. The 'american' affinity for denialry gives voicing to the fantasy that their down on the luckiness is only a temporariality.

They used to enjoy benefitially the extorting of the weak, farming of the poor, but now are among the farmed and extorted and do not like it. This yearning for their old cocoon makes them tell they are still middle classed even as the 'american' middle class extorts and farms them.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 13:11 | 5027926 Itchy and Scratchy
Itchy and Scratchy's picture

Mission accomplished for the Kenyan. Just as well 'cause he couldn't related with the middle class anyway!

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 14:04 | 5028213 toady
toady's picture

Meanwhile, Obama is hosting $32,000 a plate fundraisersall over California, while the median wage in America is only $27,000.


Thu, 07/31/2014 - 14:38 | 5028397 goneYonder
goneYonder's picture

The focus on materialism is surely one of the sicknesses of this age, though it'd be cool if people would stop stealing my stuff.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 14:40 | 5028411 Hohum
Hohum's picture

Restoring sound money won't restore an American "middle class."  $3/barrel oil, on the other hand...

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 14:47 | 5028449 froze25
froze25's picture

So how do we get a the names and addresses of the .01%? I am sure that the other 99.99% would love to write them letters telling them how much they enjoy thier current life situtations. 

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 14:55 | 5028510 Leraconteur
Leraconteur's picture

Boo Hoo


 85 people have as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion on earth.


If you took the 110Tn and gave it to the 3.5 billion, they would spend it and within 10 years the top 1% would have the money again.

It's only $30k per person. Not enough to buy a condo in China.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 15:12 | 5028630 toady
toady's picture

Still, it'd be good to shuffle the .001%, or whatever that 85 people people end up being statistically. The ten years it takes a different 85 or so people to accumulate it all again would be interesting.

It'd never happen though. The assets would never get distributed. It'd all end up in Putin's hands, or the Bush's, or the Rothschilds, or some other family that has their hands on the strings.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 21:38 | 5030760 Moustache Rides
Moustache Rides's picture

I've heard that steaming pile of sophistry before.

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 11:12 | 5032644 Leraconteur
Leraconteur's picture

It's not sophistry, you just disagree. Difference.

No one needs their hands to get the money, people spend it. Work door to door sales, go to lower middle class areas, and look at how people live.

First thing they do is buy the biggest TV they can debt finance. Then they buy the biggest rims for their ride, and the biggest stereo to put in it.

Section 8 housing is full of people with very nice, large, shiney, new, SUV's. 

Look at all of the pro athletes in the USA who spend it all and end up broke, homeless, or suicide.

Spend spend spend. That 30k would be gone in months.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 15:12 | 5028625 cluelessminion
cluelessminion's picture

Suprise, suprise; another incendiary post from Zero Hedge.  Look at the scores of outraged and disgusted posts.  Good job, give the folks something to focus on.  Keep 'em in an uproar.  Things were begining to get quiet around here.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 15:22 | 5028697 Quarky Gluon
Quarky Gluon's picture

Even Hayek admitted that the government had a role in insuring a competitive landscape.  But whether it's a post here on a politically right leaning site or a post on a lefty site, the suggested solutions put forward are nothing more than lame, pussyfooting around ideas.  I think we should be bold and nationalize most of the utilitarian sectors including oil and gas, broadband, pos credit card systems (visa and mastercard).  Then all the remaining large corporations, privately held businesses and factory farms need to be broken up into a million pieces that would then be offered for a nomimal fee to anyone looking to take on a small business.  Now there's a workable wealth redistribution system that would not only preserve competition but enhance it as well -- because all those baby companies from the large company break ups would not be allowed to be sold but the owner would have to derive an income solely through revenue.  Sure I have some details to workout, but it still would  have a significant positive effect on the current wealth disparity problem afflicting this nation and the world.

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 15:28 | 5028703 HDaryl
HDaryl's picture

I think the numbers are much worse than are relected in the article. Because, my guess is that "Americans" is broadly defined to include permanent residents both legal and illegal. A lot of Americans are middle class or lower class only due to government assistance-not work.

And, while 50 million Americans are collecting foodstamps, real unemployment is in the 20% range, untold millions of Americans are on unemployement and disability, we have been importing people to actually do the work. At the "low" end we have been importing Central American labor for the service and construction trades, at the "high" end we have been importing Asian engineering and technical talent.  

When was the last time you saw a white or black guy building a house? There are literally hundreds of houses going up here and not a single construction worker is white or black. ALL are hispanic. ALL speak Spanish as their first language. Have you checked out who is populating the engineering and advanced technical programs at American Universities? Asians.

So, while more and more Americans have been receiving more and more government assistance, American primary education has been precipitously declining, Americans have been getting progressively more obese, unqualified, unmotivated, sedentary, and lethargical, we've had to import people to actually do the work required. At this point, even if Americans were inclined to pull themselves off the couch, put down the Pepsi and Cheetos, and pull themselves away from the latest on Kim Kardashian's ass implants, a vast swath of the American population is wholly unqualified to actually perform work of any type. 

The situation is only going to get worse until the government checks stop cashing.

I'm a white guy from a middle class family who was born in the early 60's. At the age of 14 I was pouring concrete, building grain bins, working in restaurants, working construction, doing farm labor. I have been continuously paying social security since 1978, every quarter, of every year. In essence, 35 years ago I was doing all of the low end work that hispanics now do. 35 years hence, I am a multiple degreed technical profesional doing all of the high end work Asian imported labor now does.

Unfortunatey, something has happened in the last 35 years. Americans aren't trained in how to have a work ethic or in how to have the skills to do virtually any job. Nor, do Americans seem to think this is an long as the checks cash, and Pepsi and Cheetos stay on the Wal-Mart shelves, and cable stays live, they're good.......

It's going to be a very rude awakening for a lot of Americans when the checks stop cashing, and they need to actually work to support themselves. Nanny gubment ain't gonna do it foreva.....


Thu, 07/31/2014 - 15:57 | 5028980 Postal
Postal's picture

Well, as long as employers demand box-checkers instead of people who are willing and able to work, what do you expect?

I grew up on a farm in Arkansas, I have two STEM degrees, I'm a military veteran, and I can do damn near anything (I'm not a perfect prepper, but I'll do better than the sheeple). But trying to find a job is maddening: Unless I've sat on my ass for the last 3/5/7/10+ years doing exactly the job being advertised (or downloading porn), I don't even get a call back.

It does no good to be a motivated self-starter--they're not the ones who get hired. I would have been better off bribing a politician than actually better myself and try to be productive.


Thu, 07/31/2014 - 15:43 | 5028875 cluelessminion
cluelessminion's picture


Well said Hdaryl

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 22:09 | 5030898 rgetty
rgetty's picture

Dont forget Regan granting amnest to 2 million then the chain migration laws were passed in the 70s all set in motion to flood the country with millions of poor , under eductaed slave labor.

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