Economy

Your Middle-Class Status Has Been Revoked and a College Degree Will Not Get You Reinstated

Written by Richard Fossey

As 2020 comes to a close, you may think 2021 will be a better year. And if you are among the top 1 percent Americans in terms of wealth and income, things look pretty rosy.

But if you are a middle-class person, next year will be worse for you than in 2020.

First of all, as Charles Hugh Smith pointed out in a recent online essay, the middle class is an illusion. If you think you are in the middle class, you have been deluded. In fact, you are in a “phantom middle class,” a class of permanent debtors.

Over the past 40 years, earnings for the top one-tenth of one percent of Americans has grown 15 times faster than income for the bottom 90 percent. Wages as a share of the national economy have been going down for the last half-century.

You know that because you saw how wages went up for your parents’ generation, but are not going up for working people today.

Or as Mr. Smith put it:

If the top 10% own 90% of the wealth and has captured virtually all the income gains of the past 20 years, then isn’t it obvious America has no middle class? What the traditional middle middle class . . . owns is debt . . . .

Nowhere is this more obvious than when we look at the massive debt that gullible Americans have taken on to get a college degree in the pathetic hope that a diploma would get them into the middle class or keep them from falling out of it.

As Mr. Smith pointed out, Americans are under “$1.7 trillion in student loan debt burdening those who bought the narrative that a college diploma was a passport to the security of the middle class. The debt load carried by those clinging on to aspirations of middle-class security is staggering.”

Indeed, “burdening powerless students with uncertain futures with trillions in high-interest debt would have been viewed as criminal two generations ago, but now it’s celebrated by those reaping interest from precarious debt-serfs.”

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The poor saps who have been plunged into poverty by their student loans cannot discharge their debt in bankruptcy courts, and they got nothing but crumbs from Congress’s so-called coronavirus relief legislation.

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College presidents–most of whom make more than half-million dollars a year, whined to their legislators about how much the pandemic was costing them, and Congress bailed them out. But did even one of these charlatan bozos urge some relief for their ex-students who are groaning under the burden of student loans they can never repay? No, they did not.

If Americans graduated from colleges and graduate schools with useful skills, they would earn enough to pay off their student loans quickly–within 10 years at least. But they are not acquiring useful skills–especially if they majored in the liberal arts or the social sciences.

Again, Mr. Smith:

As for possessing skills, much of the workforce has few producer skills, as the consumer economy devotes inordinate attention not to producing but to marketing, speculation and complying with counterproductive regulations and bureaucratic file-shuffling.

But our fun-house economy cannot continue indefinitely with the superwealthy exploiting the rest of us while the government prints money and runs up the national debt–now pushing $30 trillion. As Smith observed:

Once the con of printing trillions of dollars out of thin air dissolves and the nation has to balance its books in the real world, these file-shuffling and speculative skills will no longer generate meaningful income.

Those of us in the bottom 90 percent of the nation’s earners can do very little to stop the downward spiral in our wealth and income. But at least we can advise our children not to take out student loans to get worthless college degrees, useless MBAs, worthless law diplomas, and worthless doctorates.




About the author

Richard Fossey

Richard Fossey is a professor at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, Louisiana. He received his law degree from the University of Texas and his doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is editor of Catholic Southwest, A Journal of History and Culture.

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