Definitions of class are hard to come by — so much so that the U.S. Department of Commerce, on behalf of Vice President Joe Biden's White House Task Force on the Middle Class, emphasized descriptive language rather than statistics, finding that "middle-class families are defined by their aspirations more than their income. [We assume] that middle-class families aspire to homeownership, a car, college education for their children, health and retirement security and occasional family vacations."
The government's verdict: "It is more difficult now than in the past for many people to achieve middle-class status because prices for certain key goods — health care, college and housing — have gone up faster than income."
Median household income has also remained stagnant for more than a decade; when the figures are adjusted for inflation, Americans are making less now than they were when Bill Clinton was in the White House.
There, in brief, is the crisis of our time. The American Dream may be slipping away. We have overcome such challenges before. To recover the Dream requires knowing where it came from, how it lasted so long and why it matters so much.
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