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It's Official: Gov Stats Shows the Middle Class is Dead

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Go to a larger city, say Philadelphia where the CLI is 126 (New York City's CLI is 218) and you'll need at least $2,136 for the same mediocre two bedroom unit, utilities, furnishing, etc. that can be had in Indianapolis for $1,375.

The double-wide will run you a small down payment of $10,000 to purchase $73,000 worth of "manufactured housing" plus an average land rent of $300 per month for a total $1,400 per month budget package.

Fourteen hundred dollars is not going to cut it in any average real estate market (CLI 100) for the average house, which now goes for $212,300, even in the currently devastated housing market.

Average single family house living is going for about $1,650 a month, including average property taxes and insurance.  Tack on even more for repairs and maintenance.  And, that's after you plunk down $50,000 to cover both closing costs and a 20% down payment. 

Hint: look around any "middle class" neighborhood and spot the empty houses, for sale and for rent signs, and how many of these splendid digs need paint, a new roof and/or other major and minor repairs. 

Food:  Hand to mouth.

If being middle class means you can afford more than a cut-rate meal once in a while the average American family certainly isn't in the middle anymore.  What they can afford is the USDA Low-cost Food Plan, not the government's Moderate-cost food plan and certainly not the Liberal plan.

With $531 a month to spend on food for our 2.5 humans, and assigning one as a child between 6 and 11 years old, $508 could go for home meals and brown-bagged lunches for the 1.3 workers under the Low-cost Food Plan.  That leaves next to nothing for food on the road.

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Or, the more likely scenario, they could go with the super cheap USDA Thrifty food plan, which according to prices registered in October 2011, would leave them an extravagant $141 a month for food purchases on the road, $14 dollars a week per person. 

As we've been told by recent research, cheap calories are also the least nutritious.  Though I'm sure the USDA has created a sumptuous and healthy Thrifty family diet, the average American family, stressed and over-worked, is probably going to eat cheap, corn produced junk and fast food as evidenced by the fact that their food spending outside the home, according to the BLS, was $212 per month.

A healthy diet of fresh food is expensive.  Are you really middle class if you can't afford to feed yourself and your family properly?

Savings :  Not happening.

Though the national saving rate now stands at 4% of income, there is no budget item in the BLS data for savings, just what people are spending.  But by doing an accounting analysis it is obvious the average American family currently has a saving rate of zero.  See: below Debt.

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Debt:   Exit though the company store.

After considering all the spending figures from the BLS we added the Federal Reserve's data on non-mortgage debt.  In 2011, the average American family's personal debt, credit cards and installment loans, was $21,402.  We deducted for a car loan that was included in the BLS transportation budget line.  That left our family with a $4,272 yearly principle and interest payment, $356 per month.

That payment, in turn, saddled them with an addition $3,801 annual deficit which would, in turn, increase their total personal debt load from $18,152 this year to $18,603 for next year.

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Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is "Single Point Failure" an insider's account of how the Reagan Administration (more...)

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I used the "C" word in this piece only because the... by Chaz Valenza on Sunday, Jan 1, 2012 at 4:41:38 PM
What's your guess?  I've been thinking about ... by Chaz Valenza on Sunday, Jan 1, 2012 at 4:59:47 PM
   That sounds about right. I'm working ... by Bob Gormley on Sunday, Jan 1, 2012 at 6:49:29 PM
I believe that the real world inflation recently d... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 at 4:58:28 AM
And we're supposed to vote Republican ? NOT... by Chef Boy RV on Monday, Jan 2, 2012 at 12:13:43 PM
I prefer to reference us as the former m... by jtenn on Monday, Jan 2, 2012 at 12:56:35 PM
The following post includes adapted excer... by Richard Clark on Monday, Jan 2, 2012 at 12:15:46 PM
   Medical costs make it just about impo... by Bob Gormley on Monday, Jan 2, 2012 at 1:10:42 PM
How much do you pay for these?... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 at 4:48:53 AM
Foot doctor, family doctor, Joslin clinic for eyes... by Bob Gormley on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 at 6:31:03 AM
The top 0.01% of earners make at least $9.14 milli... by Lance Ciepiela on Monday, Jan 2, 2012 at 12:45:46 PM
see subject... by Bob Gormley on Monday, Jan 2, 2012 at 1:12:02 PM
The salaries you note here would be typical salari... by Gary Root on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 at 1:45:08 AM
... the great unspeakable in regard to capitalism ... by Jill Herendeen on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 at 7:24:03 AM
Ron Paul may not be the perfect progressive BUT he... by Jill Herendeen on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 at 7:14:12 AM
Romney and Obama have the most corporate support. ... by Michael Shaw on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 at 1:15:57 PM
most votes; their guy in the back room will fix it... by Jill Herendeen on Wednesday, Jan 4, 2012 at 9:55:44 PM
it's only downhill from here!... by Michael Shaw on Monday, Jan 2, 2012 at 3:19:17 PM
"The fourteen hundred dollar number must include e... by Rixar13 on Monday, Jan 2, 2012 at 6:17:30 PM
"The fourteen hundred dollar number must include e... by Rixar13 on Monday, Jan 2, 2012 at 6:17:55 PM
Historically, when the richest gained too much pow... by DH Fabian on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 at 7:29:13 AM
...when all the money goes to the top, the last pl... by Chaz Valenza on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 at 8:28:23 AM
imposed by the much above middle class on Wall Str... by John Sanchez Jr. on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 at 9:41:17 AM
Thanks for writing this, I really appreciate the i... by Jackie Feazell on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 at 8:12:15 PM
Tht would be nice. (Yes, I see it.)  I work a... by Chaz Valenza on Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012 at 8:47:00 PM
Even though a debt crisis is gripping the ... by Richard Clark on Wednesday, Jan 4, 2012 at 9:15:13 PM
My husband and I were middle class, we live in pov... by Paula Landua on Sunday, Jan 15, 2012 at 4:29:35 PM