The squeezed American middle class has been at breaking point for some time. Now with politicians reluctant to raise the minimum wage and food stamps being cut, the social consequences could be devastating.
Mike Doyle’s plummet into the ranks of America’s working poor is dramatic. He was a Wall Street trader – then the GFC clobbered his hedge fund and now he’s mixing drinks at night for $2.13 an hour. Every day he takes the dawn ferry to Manhattan to try – so far in vain – to resuscitate his financial career. “I think it’s a real big issue now. Every family I know, all of these people have two jobs”, he tells us. As renowned economist Joseph Stiglitz points out, he’s far from being alone. “Most Americans have seen their incomes stagnate or fall since 2008. Median income of a full-time male worker today is lower than it was 40 years ago.” Yet despite the grind, some refuse to give up, like young mother of one Tayzia Treadwell. She works as a security guard in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in America, while raising her child and studying at business college. “I want the good life that everyone dreams when you’re in school and you draw the little house and the picket fence and a dog. I just want a happy ending.” But without help it is difficult to see even those like Tayzia achieving their dreams. The land of opportunity? Not anymore.