The people and government of the US are co-conspirators in perpetuating the ambiguity, if not myth, of what is middle class. For most people there is no ambiguity. Middle class is what they are. Whether it’s by virtue of their income, education, or values and outlook; most people will say they are middle class. The government supports these assumptions and beliefs in a number of ways:
– The US Census Bureau manipulates perception by manipulating the data it publishes: the way the data is organized to create the greatest amount of distraction from the wealthiest, by excluding data it knows but doesn’t want the public to know,
and by not being consistent from one publication to the next
– The IRS and other government agencies manipulate perception, much like the US Census Bureau, in that the data used by one agency’s publication is inconsistent from that of other agencies, as well as, from itself from one publication to another
– Despite the frequent use of the term “middle class”; the people, the government, the media, economists, and everyone else refuses to clearly define to what ‘middle class’ refers.
Why the ambiguity?
The most obvious answer to this question is, “to ensure domestic tranquility”.
By not defining ‘middle class’ the government allows people, of nearly all incomes, to enjoy the misperception they are in it. An official definition would surely rob many of them of this fallacy and may cause discontent within and on both sides of the middle class income range.
An official definition would also preclude politicians from seeking broad support for legislation which clearly benefits only a particular class. For by defining ‘middle class’ the government would, by implication, be defining the others.
Some might argue that defining ‘middle class’ would be the first step toward restrictive social castes and the institutionalization of “untouchables”, the privileged, or a nobility. In response, one could point-out US history toward minorities, the handicapped, or the under-privileged. One could also consider the histories of South Africa, India, or any number of societies with or without legal discrimination and the move toward a more equal society. In making such comparisons it becomes obvious simply defining what already exists will not change the nature of it nor cause it to arise in a people not already predicated toward it.