Monday, July 22, 2013

WNWO examines the shrinking middle class

As I mentioned in WNWO talks blackout, I'm showing my environmental science classes The End of Suburbia this week.  WNWO inspired me to link to Still hot enough for you? in which I answered one of my questions about the 2003 blackout.*  WNWO has inspired me to answer yet another of my questions from the worksheet to "The End of Suburbia."
12. What effects would Peak Oil have on the U.S. economy? Do these predictions sound familiar today?
The answer comes from Kenneth Deffeyes, as quoted in a review of the movie at
What would it be like to live after the Hubbard Peak with world oil declining?  I have this list of things: seven trillion dollars lost out of the U.S. stock market, two million jobs lost in the United States, federal budget surplus - gone, state budget surpluses - gone, the middle class disappearing.
That was the quote that inspired me to show this movie to my classes.  I watched the short, updated version of the video online in 2008, when everything that Deffeyes listed in 2003 had already taken place and was about to get even worse.  More money was lost out of the stock markets and more jobs were lost then even Deffeyes had imagined.  Now, all that money and then some has returned to the market, but a lot of those jobs are still absent, and the middle class is indeed declining.

As if on cue, WNWO posted two videos today explaining why the middle class was languishing.  The station began with Part 1: Reasons why middle-class is shrinking.

The statistics are impressive and not in a good way.  At least the three top reasons the guest gave for decline of the middle class are ones I'd agree with, even if the male anchor comes off as a right-wing shill.  He continued in Part 2: Reasons why middle-class is shrinking.

This segment added underemployment to income inequality and the replacement of middle-income jobs with low-income ones.  The rest are generally about how the middle class lost out relative to the well-off, who were able to seize the investment opportunities presented during the past five years, although the high price of college reduces opportunities for young people to advance and high gas prices, like high food prices, erode disposable income.  As for the male anchor, he's still a conservative shill.

*For more answers to some of the rest of the questions, I recommend my students surf over to Sustainability through the looking glass with Jeff Wattrick of Wonkette.  There I give answers to questions 1, 2, 4, and 5 and link to blog entries with answers for 8, 9, 18, 29, and 30.  As for the rest, they'll have to watch the movie.

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