by Erica Barton

America is known worldwide as the richest country in the world. In the 1950s, America had three classes: the lower class, the middle class, and the upper class. As we started the new millennium, we saw our middle class starting to die. In today’s society it is not enough to be part of the middle class.

With the cost of basic necessities going up and wages remaining stagnant, there is a gap in our capitalist system. This gap is wreaking havoc on America’s middle class. With stagnant wages there is no room for the middle class to grow. Instead, they have resulted in working lower paying jobs and are forced to live paycheck to paycheck. Many people may say, “they should have saved more or they should have cut back their spending” when in reality much of America has cut back. The problem is that there is no money left after paying bills. There is no money left to save or invest. Much of America relies on weekly paychecks to get by, but what happens when your car breaks down or your kid gets sick? Many are forced to take out additional debt just to make ends meet. With very little growth in the job market many Americans have fallen short, which has resulted in our lower class growing and our middle class shrinking.

The average American debt is at an all-time high, which has resulted in less demand. Have you driven by a mall lately and noticed the parking lot is empty? This is because America’s pendulum is swinging negatively towards demand. With the average American in debt, the demand for a handful of things has decreased. This has forced many companies to downsize or move production overseas. As a result, many middle class Americans have lost their jobs. With not enough jobs to go around, much of America’s middle class has fallen to the lower class, with a select few making it to the upper class.

Many Americans have fought to overcome this hurdle by continuing their education. With a very competitive market for scholarships, many have resorted to taking on mass amounts of student loans to pay for hopes at a new career. Many college graduates hope of finding work that is in their field of study but with an influx of people, the job market is scarce for new college graduates. About half of the college graduates don’t find jobs in their field of study. This forces many college graduates to work minimum wage jobs. As of 2015, in the state of Texas, the minimum wage is $7.25.  At $7.25 an hour at full time, your yearly income results to $15,080, which is just above the poverty line.

It is clear that because of an influx in our economic system America’s middle class is dying. As income inequality expands more and more people will be forced to join the lower class. As a result, America’s middle class may be on its death bed.