Via kottke I jumped to the online wall street journal looking for something, but a headline for this other article grabbed my attention: Minding the Gap, where two economists debate what rising inequality, or a hollowing out of the middle class, does to economy and society. Is it a big deal? It's followed by a discussion board, where reader David Vila says:
Interesting discussion but seems to miss a key point. I don't think most people pursue wealth, successfully or otherwise, just to buy more or better stuff. Rather, actual wealth carries with it cushion against a number of day to day worries. It may not protect against illness, or other loss, but it does reduce the added worry about how to pay for medical care for example. In other words, it has the potential to reduce some of life's stresses.
So...from the point of view of a middle class guy, I can say that today, I do not feel more economically secure in my ability to blunt those life stresses because, along with whatever financial and demographic shifts have occurred, there has been a great risk transfer to me as an individual; retirement costs, medical expenses, basic security. Even tho' I am, by all accounts, a millionaire, I do not feel the ecomomic security I always belived would come with that financial position. Yeah, I can buy a whole bunch of DVD players and big screen TVs, even a Mercedes, but I'm not sure I feel better off than my father did a generation ago with less money but less potential volatility. Any consideration of relative wealth needs to take into account that volatility and how much more we need today to deal with it.
Simple fact is that the very wealthy don't worry about these things but I still do, so subjectively, I'd say the gap feels a lot wider than it did 20-30 years ago.