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A recent survey indicates that the American middle class has become more pessimistic about the economy and is deeply worried about their own future.
In the poll, conducted in April by Heartland Monitor Polls, the 85 percent of respondents who identified themselves as belonging to the upper middle class, the middle class or the lower middle class said their generation enjoyed less employment and financial security than did their parents. The 68 percent who described themselves as lower middle class were the most worried that they might tumble further down the economic ladder.
Only 29 percent of the respondents felt the country was moving in the right direction -- down sharply from 41 percent in another Heartland poll six months ago.
And whom do people blame for this state of affairs? Sixty-four percent think Congress has made things worse for the middle class. And 55 percent think major financial institutions are also making things worse. It's hard to dismiss these judgments as unsound: In a bitterly divided Congress, with a Republican-controlled House not inclined to compromise, virtually every measure aimed at strengthening the economy is stalled. And many banks have not stepped up to help untangle the mortgage mess they helped to create in the first place.
There is also some reassuring news that tells us people are genuinely concerned about where the country is going overall, not just looking out for their personal advantage. The poll indicates that Americans want policymakers to focus on actions that increase economic growth, create jobs and make higher education -- which they see as a key gateway to success -- more affordable.
By coincidence, a very similar survey was conducted last month in six European countries by IPSOS, a European polling firm. While views throughout the countries surveyed -- France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Italy and Poland -- were generally similar to those expressed by Americans, the French were the most pessimistic: 85 percent of the French thought the economic crisis in their country would get worse; 79 percent did not think the European Union was capable of coming up with solutions. And Europeans were focused, like their American counterparts, on overall progress, and the lower range of the economic ladder, as in the United States, was the most worried about future threats to their standard of living.
There is good news and bad news here. The bad news is that there is a deep lack of confidence in the future among the citizens of the two largest economic markets, the United States and Europe. Which means that any small steps forward toward economic recovery may be more than offset by the caution and fears of the middle class both here and abroad. On both continents, the public appears to have little confidence that existing institutions (whether Congress or the European Union) will get them out of the economic doldrums.
The good news is that there is broad recognition that changes in behavior and expectations on the part of all of us are necessary. There are signs on both continents that many of those who are worried are ready to respond to serious plans for recovery if they are put forward.
To date, broad proposals equal to the scale and severity of the challenge have not been forthcoming in either the United States or Europe. History teaches us that when the middle class is scared of what the future will bring economically and loses its faith in its political institutions, its trust in democracy weakens. So an important question emerges: How long do we have?

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Comment Preferences

  •  While the reasons for pessimism (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greengemini, judyms9

    are justified, it is more difficult to think that anything is going to change. Yes, many have lost faith in the institutions that should be able to do something about it all, but the affected themselves don't appear to be so affected that they themselves are willing to get active to do something about it.

    That's something pollsters should be looking into, if you ask me.

    None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    by achronon on Mon May 20, 2013 at 10:32:09 PM PDT

  •  When enough people are moved out of their (0+ / 0-)

    comfort zone then you will see change.

     In all honesty, there really must be a majority of stupid people in the USA. The caliber TV programing in the US is a perfect example of stupidity.

    TV is the opiate of the masses.

    "We are a Plutocracy, we ought to face it. We need, desperately, to find new ways to hear independent voices & points of view" Ramsey Clark, U.S. Attorney General.

    by Mr SeeMore on Mon May 20, 2013 at 11:29:49 PM PDT

    •  I'm concerned that how far they will have to (0+ / 0-)

      be moved before they act is more than most of us will be able to bear.

      Everything could fall apart before they get off their butts. You can't fix stupid, as you well know.

      None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

      by achronon on Tue May 21, 2013 at 10:33:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  used to be a standard question on some quiz shows (5+ / 0-)

    as to what would you do with $1M.  Now $1M is not what it used to be but, for the average American what investment opportunities exist?

    CD rates are a joke while it appears stocks are at their riskiest since 2007 and are overvalued while municipals seem to be more risky than they were previously.  The traditional EE bonds no longer exist and the highest rate offered by banks on their accounts is .04% it seems.  Having some gold is prudent as is having it as antique jewelry so you have the trifecta of intrinsic value of the metal + the value of the item as jewelry + the value of the item as collectable or antique.  However you can't park a substantial part of your savings there.

    If there is anywhere to invest $1M (assuming someone comes up with $1M from a kindly great uncle you forgot was a relative), with a reasonable expectation of risk vs a reasonable rate of return?  No wonder people are pessimistic when even having $1M does not confer upon any sort of economic security upon the investor  

  •  Ironic that just last night, (0+ / 0-)

    I reread Carter's "Crisis of Confidence: speech and was struck by just how relevant parts of it seem to the present.

    What you see too often in Washington and elsewhere around the country is a system of government that seems incapable of action. You see a Congress twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and a fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.

    Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don't like it, and neither do I. What can we do?

    Some of it is obviously dated.

    "The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice." Richard K. Morgan

    by sceptical observer on Tue May 21, 2013 at 03:04:42 AM PDT

  •  I would be more confident if the President (0+ / 0-)

    were more confident, if he welcomed the hatred of the GOP, the bankers, the corporations, and laid out bold plans for jobs rehabbing our infrastructure, student loan forgiveness programs, and universal early childhood education, and systematic closing of military bases abroad that no longer serve US interests.  Too much of our wealth and too many of our resources are leaving the country leaving us with empty pockets, empty buildings, and empty spirits.

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Tue May 21, 2013 at 04:53:45 AM PDT

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