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Author Topic: "The middle class is poorer today than it was in 1989"
philnotfil
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The article seems to spend more time on recent history, but the section alluded to in the headline is worth thinking about.

washingtonpost.com

quote:
But then there are deeper factors at work. The economy has gotten bigger, but much of that growth hasn't reached the middle class. Indeed, the top 1 percent grabbed 95 percent of all the gains during the recovery's first three years. And that's not even the most depressing part. Even adjusted for household size, real median incomes haven't increased at all since 1999. That's right: the middle class hasn't gotten a raise in 15 years.

But one of the biggest, and least appreciated reasons Democrats might be struggling, is that the middle class is poorer, too. Median net worth is actually lower, adjusted for inflation, than it was in 1989. Even worse, it's kept falling during the recovery.

quote:
This is a story about stocks and houses. The middle class doesn't have much of the former, which has rebounded sharply, but has lots of the latter, which hasn't. Indeed, only 9.2 percent of the middle 20 percent of households owns stocks, versus almost half of the top 20 percent. So the middle class has not only missed out on getting a raise, but also on the big bull market the past five years.

The only thing they haven't missed out on was the housing bust: 63 percent of that middle quintile own their homes, which are more likely to be a financial albatross than asset. And it doesn't help that, with student loans hitting $1.2 trillion, people have to take out more and more debt just to try to stay in, or join, the middle class.


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Grant
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Questions:

1. Are we talking about the same people? How many people who were in the "middle class" in 1989 are still in the "middle class" today? How many moved up? How many moved down?

2. How do you define "middle class"?

3. How do you define "poor"? Is it relative to income or quality of life?

4. What are the consequences to having a housing rebound? If housing doubles, increasing the wealth of the middle class, what are the consequences to individuals trying to join the middle class?

5. Among the 90% of the households in the middle 20 percentile, how many are being forced to not buy stocks?

6. Does "stocks" include 401K plans, or pension plans that are invested in the stock market?

7. What is the plan to correct the problem? Since the major problem seems to be lack of investment in the stock market, why doesn't the government invest part, or all, of social security in the stock market? According to the article, this seems to be the reason why the wealth of the rich are increasing faster then the wealth of the middle class.

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Wayward Son
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No. 7 seems simple. The recovery has affected stocks more than housing (sounds like much more). But it may not have. The recovery could have taken some different route instead of stocks.

So investing Social Security in stocks is risky. Stock could plummet and not fully recover. Also, who pays Social Security during a recession, when stocks are low?

At least Treasury Bonds are backed by the full faith of the U.S. government (assuming Congress doesn't suddenly become faithless [Smile] ).

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by Wayward Son:
No. 7 seems simple. The recovery has affected stocks more than housing (sounds like much more). But it may not have. The recovery could have taken some different route instead of stocks.

So it is pure happenstance that the wealth of the rich has grown at a higher pace then the wealth of the middle class? It may have happened differently? It still could? Tomorrow stocks could plummet and the rich lose substantially more then the middle class, correct?

quote:
So investing Social Security in stocks is risky. Stock could plummet and not fully recover. Also, who pays Social Security during a recession, when stocks are low?
Are you referring to the price of the stock, or the yield? It depends on if you are funding part or all of SS on the proceeds from sales of stock, or their dividends. I suppose the yield for some stocks will go down during a recession, same as their price. The yield for other stocks would go up. Everybody spends more money on cigarettes, booze, and gambling during a recession (last I read). This would argue for a balanced, diversified approach to investing in the stock market. Such investment could offset risk by also including T-notes in such portfolios.

Historically speaking, even considering the great depression, and every recession we have hit in the last 75 years, investment in the stock market would still pay more then where SS goes now (the netherworld?). That is not to say that the next 75 years will be similar to the past 75 years, it won't be. But just how different will it be? What methodology are you using to read that crystal ball?

quote:
At least Treasury Bonds are backed by the full faith of the U.S. government (assuming Congress doesn't suddenly become faithless [Smile] ).
Wasn't the US Credit rating recently been downgraded by some rating agencies? Apparently (according to some people) faith in the US government isn't quite what it used to be.

I'm open to whatever suggestions you have to solve the problems of concentration of wealth. Taxation, yes?

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PSRT
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quote:
So it is pure happenstance that the wealth of the rich has grown at a higher pace then the wealth of the middle class?
No. Over the last 35 years, the institutions that help foster a middle class, and protect the middle class, have been systematically weakened, while the barriers to the massive accumulation of wealth have also been weakened. The political and economic balances to the power that comes with concentrated wealth have been systematically undermined.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Tomorrow stocks could plummet and the rich lose substantially more then the middle class, correct?
No, unless you believe that the stock market really is gambling.

quote:
Among the 90% of the households in the middle 20 percentile, how many are being forced to not buy stocks?
Is it necessary to discuss how discretionary income works?

If you make a million dollars a year, you have a lot more money to put toward stock. If you make $100,000 a year, you not only have ten times less total money, but you almost certainly have considerably less available money that could be put towards stock. You're also going to have difficulty buying stock, as you'll need to save up to reach the minimum shares required by most funds.

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by PSRT:
No. Over the last 35 years, the institutions that help foster a middle class, and protect the middle class, have been systematically weakened, while the barriers to the massive accumulation of wealth have also been weakened. The political and economic balances to the power that comes with concentrated wealth have been systematically undermined.

Nonsense. Over the past 2500 years the institutions that help keep the plebs in their place and protect the natural aristocracy have been systematically eroded, while the barriers to class mobility and social climbing scum have been eradicated. The political and economic strictures that come with concentrated wealth have been systematically undermined. [Razz]
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
No, unless you believe that the stock market really is gambling.

I'm confused. Is it gambling or not? If it's not risky, then why not put public money into it? These people over here are saying it is too risky, that there is an element of chance, and that chance can lead to loss. Do you have a different opinion?

quote:
Is it necessary to discuss how discretionary income works?
Is it necessary to discuss how condescension does not improve the quality of discussion?

quote:
If you make a million dollars a year, you have a lot more money to put toward stock. If you make $100,000 a year, you not only have ten times less total money, but you almost certainly have considerably less available money that could be put towards stock. You're also going to have difficulty buying stock, as you'll need to save up to reach the minimum shares required by most funds.
The question is aimed at the fact that the article claims that only 10% of the middle 20 percentile own stock. Yet if these individuals are all in the middle percentile, then we are not comparing the middle class to the rich. We are comparing individuals within the middle class. Are the 10% of the middle 20 percentile who own stock exclusively in the top 10% of income of said 20 percentile group? If not, then there is no reason why 100% of the middle 20 percentile could not own stock, yes?

As to the general thrust of your statement, I concede that the more income you have the more discretionary income you will have in order to invest, meaning that the rich will get richer faster then the poor get richer (making the poor "poorer"). What's the solution? Taxation, correct?

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TomDavidson
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quote:
If not, then there is no reason why 100% of the middle 20 percentile could not own stock, yes?
No, depending on whether you mean "could" or "will." There's no reason the lowest 20% can't own stock. There are lots of good reasons why they don't.

quote:
What's the solution? Taxation, correct?
Specifically, capital gains and wealth taxes. Raising the capital gains tax and the estate tax would go a long way towards helping reclaim the ground lost to the rich over the last two decades.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
Specifically, capital gains and wealth taxes. Raising the capital gains tax and the estate tax would go a long way towards helping reclaim the ground lost to the rich over the last two decades.

How are you possibly going to accomplish this when the wealthy possess such a massive amount of political power due to the ability of their wealth to influence politics? You would first need to limit the ability of wealth to influence politics, which would seem to be difficult to accomplish if the wealthy monopolize political power.

Just how much of a tax hike are you proposing for capital gains and wealth taxes? How big are we talking about in order to accomplish your aims of reclaiming lost ground to the rich over the last two decades?

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PSRT
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quote:
Over the past 2500 years the institutions that help keep the plebs in their place and protect the natural aristocracy have been systematically eroded, while the barriers to class mobility and social climbing scum have been eradicated. The political and economic strictures that come with concentrated wealth have been systematically undermined
Remove the word "natural" and yeah, more or less. And in the last 35 years, a lot of the work that was done to make the world not suck has been systematically undone, at least in this country.

The middle class is being destroyed, and the middle class is helping destroy itself by buying into the rhetoric of corporate america and its political allies.

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PSRT
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quote:
You would first need to limit the ability of wealth to influence politics, which would seem to be difficult to accomplish if the wealthy monopolize political power.
Fortunately the wealthy don't yet have a full monopoly on political power, but we're moving towards that, and the people like you who argue on other threads that money is speech are just helping destroy the middle class.

But, we probably will not have a strong middle class again in this country without a violent revolution.

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by PSRT:
Remove the word "natural" and yeah, more or less. And in the last 35 years, a lot of the work that was done to make the world not suck has been systematically undone, at least in this country.

I was just thinking to myself yesterday that 2014 felt a lot like 500 BC.

quote:
The middle class is being destroyed, and the middle class is helping destroy itself by buying into the rhetoric of corporate america and its political allies.
Because the goal of corporate america and it's political allies is to destroy the middle class, yes? Is corporate America a part of the Illuminati, or the Freemasons, or the Gnomes of Zurich?
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by PSRT:
Fortunately the wealthy don't yet have a full monopoly on political power, but we're moving towards that, and the people like you who argue on other threads that money is speech are just helping destroy the middle class.

And it all would have worked out if not for you pesky kids.

I actually don't think that I have argued that money is speech, but that they are similar in ways they can influence politics, though money partially influences politics THROUGH speech, and that seems to be where all the debate seems to be centered.

quote:
But, we probably will not have a strong middle class again in this country without a violent revolution.
Preach on, brother Marx!
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philnotfil
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quote:
Originally posted by PSRT:
quote:
Over the past 2500 years the institutions that help keep the plebs in their place and protect the natural aristocracy have been systematically eroded, while the barriers to class mobility and social climbing scum have been eradicated. The political and economic strictures that come with concentrated wealth have been systematically undermined
Remove the word "natural" and yeah, more or less. And in the last 35 years, a lot of the work that was done to make the world not suck has been systematically undone, at least in this country.

The middle class is being destroyed, and the middle class is helping destroy itself by buying into the rhetoric of corporate america and its political allies.

Apologies for the ginormous infographic, but highly relevant:
http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/the-end-of-poverty/inequality-the-choices-we-ve-made/SmithTimelinevertical_715.gif

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philnotfil
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quote:
Originally posted by Grant:
Questions:

1. Are we talking about the same people? How many people who were in the "middle class" in 1989 are still in the "middle class" today? How many moved up? How many moved down?

Not necessarily the same people, but the same group. The people who are in the middle today as compared to the people who were in the middle in 1989.

quote:
2. How do you define "middle class"?
The article specifically refers to median income and networth, and stock ownership by the middle quintile (middle 20%).

quote:
3. How do you define "poor"? Is it relative to income or quality of life?
The article never talks about poor, only poorer.

quote:
4. What are the consequences to having a housing rebound? If housing doubles, increasing the wealth of the middle class, what are the consequences to individuals trying to join the middle class?
Those who already own homes will have some comfort that the financial rewards of home ownership will again be a part of their lives. Those who do not currently own homes will be incentivized to purchase homes.

quote:
5. Among the 90% of the households in the middle 20 percentile, how many are being forced to not buy stocks?
Unknown. Depends on what you mean by forced.

quote:
6. Does "stocks" include 401K plans, or pension plans that are invested in the stock market?
Unknown. I would guess no, since the numbers are so low for both the middle 20% and the top 20%.

quote:
7. What is the plan to correct the problem? Since the major problem seems to be lack of investment in the stock market, why doesn't the government invest part, or all, of social security in the stock market? According to the article, this seems to be the reason why the wealth of the rich are increasing faster then the wealth of the middle class. [/QB]
No plan is presented. This appeared to be an article to provide information that people were not aware of, or had not connected in this way.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
You would first need to limit the ability of wealth to influence politics...
Interestingly, the single biggest unified movement behind the Tea Party is the deliberate removal of barriers that would limit the influence of wealth on politics. I submit that this is not accidental.

But, yes, with those barriers removed, it will be harder to put new ones in place. It may take blood.

quote:
Because the goal of corporate america and it's political allies is to destroy the middle class, yes?
The goal is to render the middle class powerless. The smarter people in corporate America don't want to destroy the middle class, because they need consumers to generate profit; they just want the middle class to do what they're told.

But, yes, at some point the pursuit of additional money and power for its own sake becomes simple psychosis. It's a sort of collective delusion.

[ October 02, 2014, 07:51 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
Interestingly, the single biggest unified movement behind the Tea Party is the deliberate removal of barriers that would limit the influence of wealth on politics. I submit that this is not accidental.

I see. It's not the Illuminati or the Gnomes or the Elders of Zion. It's the Tea Party that's behind the plot?

quote:
But, yes, with those barriers removed, it will be harder to put new ones in place. It may take blood.
Will we see you on the ramparts, Comrade?

quote:
The goal is to render the middle class powerless. The smarter people in corporate America don't want to destroy the middle class, because they need consumers to generate profit; they just want the middle class to do what they're told.

So is the middle class being "destroyed" or not? Is it being "destroyed" by accident? By the dumber people in corporate America?

Who are these "smarter people" in corporate America? Who is behind the plan?

quote:
at some point the pursuit of additional money and power for its own sake becomes simple psychosis. It's a sort of collective delusion.
Where's the point?
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TomDavidson
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quote:
It's not the Illuminati or the Gnomes or the Elders of Zion. It's the Tea Party that's behind the plot?
No. It's the people behind the Tea Party, which tend to be a bunch of independently wealthy sods. Nor is this some kind of crazy, out-of-the-blue secret conspiracy plot; if you're familiar with ALEC, you can read their strategy papers and proposed legislation and realize that they are straight-up saying that these are their goals.

If you aren't familiar with ALEC, almost none of the "Tea Party" positions of the last decade will make any sense to you.

quote:
Will we see you on the ramparts, Comrade?
I sincerely hope not.

quote:
So is the middle class being "destroyed" or not? Is it being "destroyed" by accident? By the dumber people in corporate America?
Yes to all of your questions. And also yes to "by the smarter people in corporate America," because even the smart ones aren't smart enough to walk the kind of thin line they want to walk between "rendered moot" and "destroyed."

quote:
Who are these "smarter people" in corporate America? Who is behind the plan?
I know you want to cast this as some kind of crazy plot, Grant, because it would make you feel better. But I strongly suggest that you go read some of ALEC's policy papers.

quote:
Where's the point?
As with hard lines for things like voting age, statutory rape, and the like, it's difficult to say "once you have a specific X amount of dollars, it's psychotic to hurt the public in order to make more profit." That said, there appears to be a dramatic drop in monetary efficiency for those making more than $400K a year from any combination of sources. At that point, it clearly becomes a game of diminishing returns.
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NobleHunter
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quote:
If you aren't familiar with ALEC, almost none of the "Tea Party" positions of the last decade will make any sense to you.
That explains a lot. I know SFA about ALEC.
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Grant
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Afraid I am not too familar with ALEC either, though I will attempt self-education in some free time.

What I have found is a corporate membership list, so now I know who the elders of ALEC are.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_members_of_the_American_Legislative_Exchange_Council

3M
Allergan
Altria (formerly known as Philip Morris)
America Online (AOL)
American Bail Coalition
American Bankers Association
American Council of Life Insurers
American Council of Trustees and Alumni
American Insurance Association
American Legal Financial Association
American Petroleum Institute
American Principles Project
American Tort Reform Association
Americans for Tax Reform
Amoco
Anheuser-Busch
Association for Competitive Technology
AstraZeneca
AT&T
Bayer
BNSF Railway
Bristol-Myers Squibb
Cato Institute
Celgene
Center for Competitive Politics
Center for Digital Media Freedom
Centerpoint360
CenturyLink
Charter Communications
Cintra
Citizens In Charge Foundation
Civil Justice Reform Group
Comcast
Community Financial Services Association
Con-way
ConocoPhilips
Corrections Corporation of America
Coventry Health Care
Crown Cork and Seal Company
CTIA – The Wireless Association
DCI Group
Diageo
DirecTV
Dow Chemical
DuPont
EBay
Eli Lilly
Entertainment Software Association
Entergy
Express Scripts
ExxonMobil
Facebook
Fadem & Associates
Farmer's Insurance
Federalist Society
FedEx
Foundation for Excellence in Education
Free State Foundation
Genentech
Geo Group (formerly known as Wackenhut
Georgia Pacific
GlaxoSmithKline
Heartland Institute
Higher Education Research/Policy Center
Illinois Policy Institute
Imagine Learning
Institute for Justice
Institute for Legal Reform
Institute for Policy Innovation
International Franchise Association
James Madison Institute
Justice Fellowship
Kansas City Power and Light
Koch Industries
Lawyers for Civil Justice
Macquarie Capital
Management and Training Corporation
McLeod County Farmers Union
MV VeriSol
National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
National Association of Water Companies
National Beer Wholesalers Association
National Cable and Telecommunications
Association
National Coalition for Safer Roads
National Federation of Independent Business
National Pawnbrokers Association
National Popular Vote
National Rifle Association
NetChoice
News Corporation (parent company of Twentieth Century Fox, Wall Street Journal and Fox News)
Novartis
Orchid Cellmark
Pacific Research Institute
Pfizer
PhRMA
Pickle Consulting Group
Pioneer Institute
Price Waterhouse Coopers
Progress and Freedom Foundation
Property Casualty Insurers
Reason Foundation
Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals
Sanofi Aventis
Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association
Schering Plough
Serlin Hale
Sprint Nextel
State Farm Insurance
State Policy Network
Stop Child Predators
Taser International
Thomson Reuters
Time Warner
T-Mobile
United Health
United Parcel Service
US Chamber of Commerce
Verizon
VISA USA
Wine Institute
Wireless Generation
Wise Carter Child & Caraway
Wyeth
Xcel Energy
Yelp, Inc.

Surprised so many companies can agree on anything.

The chairman of the private enterprise board is Steve Searle of SAP. I can't even find a picture of this man so I think I've found the ringleader.

quote:
I know you want to cast this as some kind of crazy plot, Grant, because it would make you feel better. But I strongly suggest that you go read some of ALEC's policy papers.

Actually, I kinda felt that it was YOU who were casting this as some kind of crazy plot, because it made you feel better, rather then just some conservative people and organizations drafting legislation and presenting them to conservative legislators. It's you who are saying that all these companies and all these people and all those legislators have the goal of rendering the middle class "powerless" by removing barriers that limit the effect of wealth on politics.

I still havn't seen how they are going to manage to do this.

Tom, are there any policy papers in particular that I should concentrate on first?

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TomDavidson
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quote:
It's you who are saying that all these companies and all these people and all those legislators have the goal of rendering the middle class "powerless" by removing barriers that limit the effect of wealth on politics.
Yes. But you're the one suggesting that this is a "crazy conspiracy."

They are quite literally doing that, and they are quite literally doing that deliberately. Like I said, read ALEC's position papers on the subject. They're not coy about it.

quote:
Tom, are there any policy papers in particular that I should concentrate on first?
I'd have to Google around; it's been about six years since I first trawled their site. You can put in the same effort. I wouldn't be surprised if some people are maintaining an archive on exactly this topic, since looking at ALEC's proposed legislation is always a good way to know what Republicans are going to be doing in the next year.
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Grant
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
I'd have to Google around; it's been about six years since I first trawled their site. You can put in the same effort. I wouldn't be surprised if some people are maintaining an archive on exactly this topic, since looking at ALEC's proposed legislation is always a good way to know what Republicans are going to be doing in the next year.

I will try, but I do have some work to do and I do have other things I would like to read today, like finish my second reading of Edward Feser's Philosophy of the Mind or re-read The Saga of the Volsungs or start on Mark Moyer's Triumph Forsaken.

The trouble I fear I will run into though is that I will inevitably come away with a different opinion then yours of any such policy paper. I don't see or read things like you do. You will draw different conclusions or connect different dots then I will. So it would be easier for me to have you say "this paper", "this paragraph" means "this". Otherwise it will be a fruitless endeavor, by myself, in understanding the evidence you are putting forth, which by the way I believe you have something of a burden of proof to show how it supports your assertions.

I understand that you are as busy or busier then I am, and that the world is not going anywhere unless climate change ramps up drastically or an asteroid/nuclear war hits.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
4. What are the consequences to having a housing rebound? If housing doubles, increasing the wealth of the middle class, what are the consequences to individuals trying to join the middle class?
A hose is a house. It represents the same amount of wealth, regardless of price. A rebound in the market would serve to reward those who currently own the most profit with significant financial access, but the larger effect would be to transfer financial assets from the middle class to the bankers that offer them loans to try to keep up with the rising prices. (Keeping in mind that the price of the house also only tends to matter in terms of a deal that transfers even more money to a financial institution in order to access it)

And if there's a crash because of too much debt? Then the financial institutions take control of most of the property, and become the majority property owners in time for the next rebound.

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