Working-age poor or poor working-class?

Posted: 7 September 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Here in the land of high unemployment and increasing poverty, we refuse to call things by their correct names.

Take the working-class—people who are forced to have the freedom to sell their labor power for a wage. We refer to them as members of the middle-class (which needs to be “rebuilt“) and working families (who need to be helped) or, now as workers’ wages stagnate and the real value of the minimum wage declines, as the “feral underclass” (especially in the UK, in the aftermath of the riots) or the working-age poor (as in the recent AP report on the demographic composition of those living in poverty [ht: ja]).*

What’s the problem with calling it as it is? What are we afraid of? It’s the working-class, and its member are becoming increasingly impoverished. People who work for a living, or want a full-time job but can’t find one (whether or not they’re actively looking for one, since it’s getting increasingly difficult to find a decent job), represent nearly 3 out of 5 poor people. Add in their children, and U.S. working-class families make up most of the growing ranks of the poor.**


So, from now on, in political and economic discourse, let’s call things by their correct names. The vast majority of people in the United States are members of the working-class. And they’re getting shafted.

* Special mention has to be reserved for Casey Mulligan, the neoclassical economist who argues that elderly workers have fared better than young people because they have “the ability to efficiently find a new job in a tough labor market is a skill, and people tend to accumulate that skill with age.”

** The final group are the elderly, and their poverty rate is much lower only because of Social Security, which the ruling class (again, because we’ve decided to call things by their correct names) now wants to cut.

  1. […] Last September, I argued against focusing on a middle-class that needed to be “rebuilt,” suggesting that we return instead to the discourse of the working-class. […]

  2. […] of the problem, as Andrew J. Cherlin argues (and I noted back in 2011) is that the working-class has mostly disappeared from our political language. There’s lots […]

  3. […] five years ago, I suggested we start calling things by their correct […]

  4. […] five years ago, I suggested we start calling things by their correct […]

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