I did an interview on Wisconsin public radio a couple of weeks ago, and a caller asked how I could justify workers making $50,000 per year when the CEOs were making millions.
I couldn't. Neither, I said, can I justify Rafael Soriano making $14 million per year to pitch not more than one inning per night for the Washington Nationals while the ticket takers at the gate are making something on the order of $18,000 for the season.
There was a time when the middle class was made up of merchants and skilled workers -- like blacksmiths. Everyone else was either royalty, the peasantry, or the Pope.
The industrial revolution began when textile manufacture moved from homes to a new dominion called a factory. According to Yale University,
"In the mid-1760s the textile industry began to experience rapid change. James Hargreaves' jenny, a device which enabled the operator to simultaneously spin dozens of threads, was readily adopted. By 1788 nearly 20,000 of them were being employed in England."
People (mainly women) who would have lived their entire lives in a small village moved to the cities to participate in -- and be exploited by -- the capitalists who built the factories and sold the output.
In the 21st century, Western factory workers, merchants, small business owners (which include farmers) are the middle class -- lots of them making well above $50,000 per year.
I don't read much whining coming from these middle class Americans. They are paying their bills, sending their kids to school, buying cars and clothes, and watching HD-TVs.
If the President wants to be remembered for anything positive it will not be dividing the middle class from the upper class; it will be by finding a way to help those at the lowest levels of our economy to climb into the middle class.