Friday, May 23, 2008

Asking Pat Tiberi for Help...

I once wrote a lengthy piece on the definition of "middle class." Recently, the Pew Research Center released a report on the middle class that stated:

At the outset, we should acknowledge that "middle class" is a term that is both universally familiar and devilishly difficult to pin down.

This report is referenced by Steve LaTourette in his announcement that he and Rep. Weiner (D-NY) have created the Congressional Caucus on the Middle Class, and again by my Rep., Pat Tiberi, in his announcement that he has joined the caucus as a founding member. As the bi-partisan nature of the caucus indicates, there is wide support for strengthening the middle class. As an abstract principle, it sounds good to me as well. But before I can get on board, I need to get a question answered, so I sent an e-mail to the Honorable Pat:

Congressman Tiberi,

I just read your announcement of the creation of the Caucus
on the Middle Class, which you have joined as a founding member.
In the announcement you mention a recent Pew report which, as
Congressman LaTourette has noted, finds that 53% of American
adults pick the label "middle class" to identify themselves.
According to that same report, if you include the labels
"upper middle class" and "lower middle class," then 92% of
American adults identify themselves as being in some part
of the middle class. That same report also defines "middle
income" as 75%-150% of the median income for a given household
type - in Ohio that means yearly income ranges of:

2-person families 36,249 to 72498
3-person families 43,598 to 87195
4-person families 51,434 to 102868.5
5-person families 52,075 to 104149.5
6-person families 48,911 to 97821
7-or-more-person families 44,097 to 88194

The Pew report notes that many people above and below
these cutoffs think of themselves as simply "middle class,"
while many within them classify themselves as upper, upper
middle, lower middle, or lower class.

As you and the caucus seek to strengthen the middle class,
do you envision helping people primarily in those income
bands? People who think of themselves as middle class, but
not 'upper middle class' or 'lower middle class'? Everybody
except the eight percent who think of themselves as rich
or poor? In other words, I would like to know if I am in
the middle class that this caucus is focusing on, so it
would be helpful to know who, exactly, is in the middle class,
and who is not.

Any clarification is appreciated,

Jason Sullivan,

Bexley, Ohio

If I get a response, I'll post it in full (and since I've started posting letters when I send them, the Honorable Pat's office has been consistent in responding).

The Drum Major Institute has a website called TheMiddleClass.Org which describes the "middle class" thusly:

The middle class is more than an income bracket. Over the past fifty years, a middle-class standard of living in the United States has come to mean having a secure job, the opportunity to own a home, access to health care, retirement security, time off for vacation, illness and the birth or adoption of a child, opportunities to save for the future and the ability to provide a good education, including a college education, for one’s children. When these middle-class fundamentals are within the reach of most Americans, the nation is stronger economically, culturally and democratically.

Most Americans identify themselves as middle class. Yet DMI is concerned not only with those who currently enjoy a middle-class standard of living, but also with expanding the middle class by increasing the ability and opportunities of poor people to enter the middle class. The middle class is strengthened when more poor people are able to work their way into its ranks. In a nation that is increasingly polarized between the very wealthy and everyone else, DMI sees the poor and middle class as sharing many of the same interests. Simply put: what strengthens and expands the middle class is good for America.

They also publish report cards based on support of these principles. Given Mr. Tiberi's grades, I'm expecting something different than this as a response.

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