Meet Joe. He used to make a steady income in manufacturing, but the work has disappeared. Now, he is selling everything and moving into his van.
Joe is one of the 71% of Americans who think the U.S. economic system is "rigged in favor of certain groups," according to a new poll by Marketplace and Edison Research. The poll asked a simple question: Which of the following comes closer to your opinion on the economic system in the U.S. People could select between three options:
- The economic system is rigged in favor of certain groups
- The economy system is fair to all Americans
- Don't know
Most selected rigged economy.
As CNN adds, it didn't matter if the person was white, black or Hispanic or whether they identified as Republican, Democrat or Independent. The majority feel the American Dream comes with huge asterisk that reads "only for the favored few."
Americans have good reason to think this way. The typical middle class family is earning about the same amount of money adjusted for inflation, just under $54,000, as they did in 1996.
That means that as the rich get richer, the middle class hasn't seen an improvement in its way of life in 20 years. On top of that, the Great Recession knocked out many people's safety net savings as they lost jobs or homes or both. Even people who have jobs say they feel one step away from financial ruin. They fear a life of "dead-end crap jobs with crap wages."
People like Joe, 60, who lives in a mobile home ith his mother outside of Philadelphia and is desperate. He last held a job in early 2013: "The first seven weeks I was there we were busier than I've ever seen a small company be, and then like someone flipped a switch. The work just stopped."
"I would like to work" he says. "I still have skills and abilities and I still know how to use them. I have two associate degrees, one's in electrical engineering, one's in mechanical engineering."
He then discusses the impossible dream for the lower middle class of which he would like to be part of: "I consider $15/hour to be lower middle class. If i had been able to go permanently with a company, probably I would have reached middle class in a few years. I'd settle for lower middle class right now but even that's almost the impossible dream."
So what does Joe's future hold? "If I don't hear back from any of these applications, if I'm not working I'll be out of here. With out last couple of thousand dollar we got the minivan. I'll have enough room for a sleeping back and some clothes. My mom said if you ever have to sell the house, I want you to take the lamp. I can't take the lamp either."
And his morbid conclusion: "Poor people have significantly shorter lifespans than more affluent people. In fact I keep having this argument with my doctor. He keeps telling me 'you have another 30 years.' I tell him no, I don't expect to make it past seventy." In other words, Joe thinks he has another 10 years of working class purgatory before he can finally rest.
In the video below, he is wearing sunglasses to disguise his identity.