Excerpt from "The Erosion of America's Middle Class" from Spiegel Online
"Two weeks ago, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and 40 other billionaires pledged to donate at least half of their fortunes to philanthropy, either while still alive or after death. Is America a country so blessed with affluence that it can afford to give away billions, just like that?Still no jobs here. No such thing as a raise if you have a job. Watching people who worked and paid their mortgages for decades losing ground. You can't have a democracy without a middle class. Obviously the wealthy don't want this to be a democracy.
Gates' move could also be interpreted as a PR campaign, in a country where the super-rich sense that although they are profiting from the crisis, as was to be expected, the number of people adversely affected has grown enormously. They also sense that there is growing resentment in American society against those at the top.
For people in the lower income brackets, the recovery already seems to be falling apart. Experts fear that the US economy could remain weak for many years to come. And despite the many government assistance programs, the small amount of hope they engender has yet to be felt by the general public. On the contrary, for many people things are still headed dramatically downward.
According to a recent opinion poll, 70 percent of Americans believe that the recession is still in full swing. And this time it isn't just the poor who are especially hard-hit, as they usually are during recessions.
This time the recession is also affecting well-educated people who had been earning a good living until now. These people, who see themselves as solidly middle-class, now feel more threatened than ever before in the country's history. Four out of 10 Americans who consider themselves part of this class believe that they will be unable to maintain their social status."