Gov. Sarah Palin should think twice about using the term ‘middle class’ in her vice-presidential debate with Sen. Joe Biden on Thursday, even though Sen. Barack Obama criticized Sen. John McCain for not referring to the middle class during the first presidential debate. McCain used the term ‘Main Street’ to refer to the populace.
Obama’s newest media narrative is his ability on the economy. But Gerald Prante, writing for the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, says ‘middle class’ is a term economists “[r]arely use.” Instead, they use the term ‘middle income’ and that’s still a little wiggly because that can either mean the 20 percent of households with income in the middle or sometimes, the 60 percent who are in the middle. Sounds confusing, but Prante gives a good explanation. Who, exactly, is the middle class?
The middle can mean the 20 percent in the middle—40 percent of households earn more and 40 percent earn less. This interpretation is usually, Prante says, applied in academic literature.
But others interpret the middle as the middle 60 percent, with 20 percent earning more and 20 percent earning less.
The middle 60 percent earnings range from $20,000 to $97,000.
What’s more interesting is the application we Americans use for ‘middle class.’ Prante said, “[a] recent Tax Foundation poll showed nearly 4 out of 5 Americans label themselves middle class.” Only 2 percent called themselves “upper class.”
I bring this matter up because media focuses on Obama's ability with the economy. McCain’s appropriation of the term “Main Street” is actually more accurate, at least in political terms, but there’s a social component to that usage as well.
Socially, the GOP addresses the populace as a whole, whereas the Democratic Party tends to align voters in categories by items such as race, gender and union affiliation. Simply put, McCain didn’t use the term ‘middle class’ because he chose a more accurate term and he wisely accepts that poor, rich or in between, we’re all equal. We are ‘Main Street,’ every one of us.
[Ed. note: Questions also arise about Obama's statement about lobbyists during the debate. Read a previous post about our fact check on that matter. Text and photo/Kay B. Day.]