"It is the gap between the strong and just country our children need for us to be…and the country we are in danger of becoming. For today in America, 70% of us are earning the same or less than they were 12 years ago. This is the first time that has happened this side of World War II. Today in America, family-owned businesses and farms are struggling to compete with ever larger concentrations of corporate power. Fifty years ago, the nation’s largest employer was GM. An average GM employee could pay for a year’s tuition at a state university with two weeks’ wages."
The Context: O'Malley uses his announcement to speak to those Americans who feel their country is in decline, beginning by declaring that the American Dream is in "urgent need of rebuilding." He explains that a "scourge of hopelessness" is developing in areas of poverty, largely stemming from the belief that labor and wages are worth less with each day. To combat these structural flaws, O'Malley proposes raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing overtime pay, and simplifying collective bargaining. He proposes these measures as a means to strengthen the middle class, as dual key to economic growth and equality.
The middle class is an ambiguous category—defined by the space between wealth and poverty, while describing the standard and cost of living associated with this Dream. If taken by the first definition (the space between the ends of the income scale), there will always be a middle class. If defined by a standard of living, the important questions become whether American households earn enough to accomplish that standard. Thus, we asked