Thursday, May 15, 2008

Somebody's Making a Whole Lot of Sense

And look, she votes Democratic. What I liked about the interview and her approach is that its all about the structures and the hard economics of it all, not about some guff about "creative classes" or "bobos" or any other fake culture war constructs.

But while the rich clean up, Nan Mooney, a 38-year-old journalist, wonders why so many people like her -- college-educated professionals, members of the storied American middle class -- still struggle to make it financially, well into their 30s and 40s and beyond, unable to pay off their student loans while trying to cover healthcare costs, save for their children's education and plan for their own retirement. In her new book, "(Not) Keeping Up With Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Class," Mooney argues that what it really means to be middle-class in America is suffering a rude downgrade, as college costs rise and wages stagnate at the same time that individuals must shoulder more healthcare and retirement expenses.

For her book, Mooney interviewed more than 100 social workers, product managers, college administrators, factory-equipment salesmen and other members of the middle class about what their intimate financial lives really look like. Most of them earned between $30,000 and $70,000 a year, yet despite good educations and respectable incomes, many still shouldered crushing debts and had serious doubts about their financial futures. They all aspire to basic comforts -- a place to live, reliable healthcare, education for themselves and their children -- but come across as a little bewildered by their seemingly perpetual state of financial insecurity.