* It’s no wonder the middle class feels besieged…
Even before the recession hit, economic data backed what the majority were feeling: After a steady climb that lasted more than a generation, the real median income in the United States peaked in 1999 and then dropped. It has yet to return to that peak, making it the longest downturn in modern history. […]
Illinois was not immune to the trend between 2001 and 2008. Weekly wages dropped or remained stagnant in most sectors, according to a December report, “The State of Working Illinois.”
Meanwhile, expenses for things like health care, housing and college have gone up at rates far faster than inflation. Home values (before the recent market crash) in 1970 were typically twice family income; now they are five times as much.
Lincolnshire-based Hewitt Associates reported last month that workers’ yearly health care costs nearly tripled, to $3,800, since 2000; 65 percent of employers plan to reduce health benefits further. That’s if your job offers health care at all, as more than 4 in 10 workers in the state are no longer covered by employer insurance. Employees covered by pensions dropped in Illinois, too.
One problem is that the idea of what a middle class family is has so radically changed over the years. People struggled to keep up with the Joneses while their wages stagnated. That led to a credit overextension, which led to some of the current housing-related woes.
In Chicago, the Heartland Alliance estimated recently that it would take a family of four nearly $50,000 annually just to pay for bare essentials like food, housing and health care — an amount higher than some households at the lower end of the middle class earn. That doesn’t include savings for college or retirement, vacation or preschool or private school costs.
The housing bubble contributed to this problem. For instance, I was looking for a house in 2005 and was appalled at Chicago prices. I just couldn’t see spending that much money for that little house. So, I decided to move back to Springfield (I was also getting sick of the commute during the governor’s seemingly endless OT sessions). But I can live just about anywhere. Not many can do that. Still, if Chicago housing prices forced somebody like me out of the market, imagine the pain of all those who make less than I.
And, considering the financial pressures, it’s no wonder people are so upset at Gov. Quinn’s proposed tax hikes, even if they’re being misinformed or misunderstanding that some of them might actually get a tax cut.
* Some Republicans, like possible US Senate candidate Mark Kirk, are proposing ideas…
Mr. Kirk has scheduled a press conference with several small-business owners at which he is to call for permanent elimination of the inheritance tax. He’ll also call for suspending the mark-to-market accounting rule, arguing that it’s triggered a run on banks. And he wants to reimpose the uptick rule, which bans the short sale of borrowed stocks or bonds.
While Mr. Kirk surely believes in all three populist stances, none would hurt him any in a primary contest for the U.S. Senate next year, a race he appears to be heavily leaning toward.
Would any of that make any difference in the lives of the middle class? I guess it depends on how you define who is middle class.
* GOP Congressman Aaron Schock is touting a different approach to get money into the hands of some who might be struggling…
“As more and more individuals try to increase their household income(s) and a lot of public sector employees take on additional work, whether part-time on the weekends or in the evenings, they are paying into social security,” Schock told News 25.
But because those people (such as public school teachers) have a full-time job with the government, the social security benefits they would receive from their part-time, private employment are reduced. Schock says that has to change.
I know this post is a bit of a ramble, but do you have thoughts about any of this?