What is the ‘middle class’ and should the phrase be used in journalism?

I have noticed what I think is a change  in style from the New York Times — or at least it seems new to me –in its use of the phrase “middle class.”

Notice this use of it in this story on the battle brewing on extended so-called “Bush’s tax cuts.”

“But they have pledged to continue the lower tax rates for individuals earning less than $200,000 and families earning less than $250,000 — what Democrats call the middle class.

That’s a great use of attribution to afford some kind of better description than we have in most other news articles I see. In other stories, I still see the simpler use of the phrase “middle class.” But what the hell does that mean?

Seems like there’s plenty of confusion around just what the middle class is — more directly than an ethereal base of populist nostalgia.

There’s this authenticity that we put on surviving the proletariat, so there’s a chase to fit oneself in the middle class or — even better! — the working class.

It sure would be nice for someone, somewhere to put some kind of distinction on these phrases because they carry great political, social and emotional weight.

As far as I can tell, for now, the phrase ‘middle class values’ basically means avoiding drug use, opening a bank account and having sex missionary style. I’d like for much greater accuracy and transparency for journalists.

2 thoughts on “What is the ‘middle class’ and should the phrase be used in journalism?”

  1. Christopher, I’ve also been trying to figure out what the heck “middle class” really means. While the Wiki definitions are somewhat helpful, I’m more interested in — as you say — the political, social and emotional weight the term carries. I’m personally feeling the hit of the tanking of the economy and feeling the shock of going from a basically “middle class family” to a “very poor family”, as the NY times says, “the new poor”. (They ran a six part series on the subject.) So far, I’ve come down on the side of defining middle class within the parameters of values and motivations, more than income level. Though we moved to a shanty in a rotten neighborhood, we’re bustin’ our buns to get the heck out, trying to figure out how to get our kids to college, save for retirement and make more money without leaving our kids in the dust by not spending quality AND quantity time with them. Those values, I dare say, don’t appear to be shared among our new neighbors. If interested, I have a blog dedicated to the subject: http://www.newpoorzone.com. I’m interested in any further thoughts you dig up on the defining characteristics of the “middle class”. Thanks.

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