The Somewhere-In-Between Class

the-in-betweenSomething has always bugged me about the “shrinking middle class” meme in commentary on politics, government and the economy.

Whenever I encounter it, my thought is something like, “Isn’t it more important that we talk about persistent and rising poverty?”

But when I read stuff like the following title of a Pew Research Center piece on wealth inequality, my question changes to, “Has the term middle class lost all of its meaning?”

America’s wealth gap between middle-income and upper-income families is widest on record

If a gap is widening, how can what we’ve always called middle class still be in the middle?

I mean, just thinking literally for a moment, from (emphasis of equidistant in bold added by me):



1. the point, part, position, etc., equidistant from extremes or limits.

According to Pew (my emphasis added in bold):

In 2013, the median wealth of the nation’s upper-income families ($639,400) was nearly seven times

In addition, America’s upper-income families have a median net worth that is nearly 70 times that of the country’s lower-income families, also the widest wealth gap between these families in 30 years.

Now, I was never very good at math, but even I can understand how, if upper-income families have 70 times the wealth of lower-income families and 7 times the wealth of so-called middle-income families, so-called middle-income families are not equidistant to lower-income and upper-income families in terms of wealth.

I find this surprising, because, you know, a lot of people who ARE very good at math are economists and/or write about economics.

It seems rather unscientific that we just continue using the phrase middle class as if there were three economic classes and one of them was right in the middle of the other two.

And so, in the spirit of accuracy, I hereby propose this simple remedy:

From this point forward, instead of using the inaccurate and misleading The Middle Class, we should all start using: The Somewhere-In-Between Class.

I know it’s a mouthful, more syllables and keystrokes to deal with, but what’s more important, convenience or truthfulness?

The Music Business’ 1%

buskerSo, I saw this headline on, and I was like, “WTF?! This guy is EVERYWHERE right now!”

The CW to Air Justin Timberlake’s Album Release Party

And then I read on, and, yeah, he’s EVERYWHERE right now!

Justin Timberlake, who recently hosted another highly rated SNL episode and is in the middle of his weeklong guest appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, is keeping the TV ball rolling.

According to Deadline, Target will present “The IHeartRadio Album Release Party With Justin Timberlake” on the CW.

The special will be an hour-long TV event including performances and interviews with Timberlake in an effort to promote his upcoming album, The 20/20 Experience.

Now, usually when I think about economic inequality I think of corporations and corporate executives as the overly-privileged 1%.

Yet, even though it’s always been the case that a relatively select few musical artists rise to the level of superstar, it didn’t really hit me until just now the extent to which the current state of the music business resembles the 1% vs. 99% economic inequality problem.

99% of musical artists either don’t make a living from the music they make, barely get by on the music they make, or struggle to sustain any ounce of success they do manage to achieve, often slipping back down the ladder or giving up on music entirely, and they all work their asses off!

Enter Justin Timberlake, who is already a mega-mega-megastar, many, many, many times over a millionaire, and when he comes out with a new album, he’s automatically gonna make many, many, many more millions by merely releasing the album on iTunes, Amazon, etc. and circulating a press release to announce its arrival.

But no, that’s not enough. He gets to appear on Saturday Night Live and has a week-long residency on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and an hour-long infomercial!

Meanwhile, a good friend of mine, like millions of other musicians, is straining his marriage and his family’s expenses to pull off a brief regional tour of tiny, tiny venues in order to promote his album, with absolutely no support from a record company. He will likely spend more money on transportation, lodging, food and other expenses than he’ll make at the gigs, all in the hope that people will like his music and maybe, just maybe, buy his album and spread his name around, and it breaks my heart that, in the vast, vast majority of cases, not even that will happen.

It’s ridiculously unfair and it pisses me off!

(Disclaimer: Yes, I know that this is also the case for the arts in general, and the same could be said for athletics as well, but since I’m a musician, this is what struck me today.)

Economic Inequality Revisited

Two years ago, I ranted about economic inequality in a post that I’m very proud of, titled The Cruel Joke of Austerity Measures.

Then I saw a video today (see below), that included this infographic, and all my discontent and anger on this topic was stirred up again:


I don’t really have all that more to say on the topic right now, hardly anything that I haven’t already stated, except that, if the following video doesn’t disturb you, if you don’t see and feel like there is ample reason for the 99% to organize and speak out and demand justice, despite the failures of the well-intentioned Occupy movement two years ago, well, you should.

Portland Postscript: The Disgrace of Homelessness

Click to enlargeI had intended my post this morning, a photo I took while crossing the Burnside Bridge on foot, to be the last post related to my recent trip to Portland, Oregon.

But then, my blogging friend Naomi Baltuck (whose awesome blog, Writing Between The Lines, is very much worth checking out!), left the following comment on that post:

This is a gorgeous photo! I love the color and composition! Very artful.

I know. Sweet, and a wonderful compliment, right?

Truth is, I can’t, with a clear conscience, accept the compliment, because…the photo is a fraud.

You see, there’s nothing gorgeous, colorful, or artful about the fact that, just out of frame, several buildings down, there was a line of people two blocks long at the Portland Rescue Mission.

We’d been warned by a Portlander, at a streetcar stop on the south side of the Willamette River, that our plan to walk over the Burnside Bridge wasn’t the greatest, that there were several buses we could take across, that the neighborhood just on the other side of the bridge was, he said, “…unpleasant. Not unsafe. You won’t get mugged or anything. It’s just unpleasant.”

I had a feeling I knew what he was referring to. My wife and 15-year old son had seen numerous homeless people on our walking excursions throughout the city. But, nothing had prepared me for the sight of so many people lined up at the mission on a cold night, nearly a stone’s throw away from one of Portland’s proudest achievements, the Pearl District, a section of downtown that had once been a crumbling mess of urban industrial decay, transformed in the late 1990s into an upscale neighborhood of pricey restaurants, shops, and condominium complexes.

So, the Portlander we spoke to was right, it was unpleasant, but not for the reasons I’m almost certain he was hinting at.

There was nothing unpleasant about the people who were lined up at the mission.

No, the unpleasantness, for me, was that they served as a stark reminder that we continue to allow, in our country, 1% of the population to hoard unthinkable amounts of wealth, living in decadent luxury, while the middle class is shrinking, and poverty is on the rise.

It’s a national disgrace.

Here’s a photo taken outside of the Portland Rescue Mission…


…in the late 1940s, during the post-WWII economic boom.

So much has changed since then, but sadly, some things have stayed the same.

Robin Hood Tax! Yes!

robin-hood-taxNow THIS is a great idea!

(Warning: Their servers are getting slammed today, as word about this campaign is spreading fast. So, if you can’t reach the site right now, please check it out later.)

The Robin Hood Tax campaign is calling for a tax of less than half of 1% on Wall Street transactions that could generate hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

A Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street will provide funding to kickstart the economy and get America back on its feet by creating jobs and strengthening public services like health care, education and infrastructure at home while tackling AIDS, global health, poverty and climate challenges around the world.

This is a tax on Wall Street, which created the greatest economic crisis in our nation, and globally, since the Great Depression. The same people who have returned to record profits and bonuses while ordinary Americans, the 99%, continue to pay the price of their crisis.

It’s not a tax on the people, but a tax for the people.

It makes so much sense, and anyone who opposes the idea is either:

  • Protecting the 1% at the expense of the 99%, which, I’d hope by now most people would agree, is wrong; or…
  • Brainwashed into believing in trickle-down economics, the thoroughly debunked idea that if we protect the wealthy (i.e. cut their taxes, provide them with massive tax loopholes, provide their businesses with massive subsidies) their prosperity will trickle down to those who are less wealthy; or…
  • Brainwashed into distrusting the government thoroughly, therefore not wanting the government to tax anyone, because they believe that the government can’t be trusted to use tax dollars wisely.

As with anything like this, it’s important to not take it on face value, and to find out know who’s behind it.

Conveniently, has a page on their website titled Who’s behind it?

Yeah, I can get behind these people and this movement!

Tweet of the Day: @NaomiAKlein

A downer of a topic, but this Tweet of the Day recalls a post of mine from February 2011 titled The Cruel Joke of Austerity Measures.!/NaomiAKlein/status/192339131152601088

Of Bake Sales & Barbarians

The next time you hear from politicians or 1%ers that the budget deficit is SO critical, that since there’s such a shortage of money they have no choice but to cut funding for programs that help the poor, working, and middle classes, funding for programs that protect the environment, funding for programs that fix the roads and bridges we all depend on for our safety, funding for education, law enforcement, prisons, etc., we should all respond:


Forget for a moment that the 1% alone is bilking the country of billions and billions of dollars in evaded taxes every year, and consider this obscenity (via Wired):

The most expensive weapons program in U.S. history is about to get a lot pricier.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, meant to replace nearly every tactical warplane in the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, was already expected to cost $1 trillion dollars for development, production and maintenance over the next 50 years. Now that cost is expected to grow, owing to 13 different design flaws uncovered in the last two months by a hush-hush panel of five Pentagon experts. It could cost up to a billion dollars to fix the flaws on copies of the jet already in production, to say nothing of those yet to come.

Sickening that we prioritize preparing for and fighting wars above taking care of the poor, universal health car, educating our kids, securing retiree benefits, etc. It’s downright barbaric!

The world’s top 7 largest military budgets in 2010:

I mean, come on! Who, exactly, are we afraid of?!

I ask, because we’re constantly told that we have enemies who would like to destroy us and everything we stand for, and yet the next largest military nation, WHOM WE DWARF, is our second largest trade partner, and the other big bad enemy that we hear about most often these days, Iran, spends a meager $7billion annually compared to our whopping $687 billion.

Sadly, I’m reminded of this classic and just how relevant it still is: