Economic Opportunity Director Tamara Draut writes with Barbara Ehrenreich writes how the middle class has been roiled in recent years by what the economists call "income volatility," or sudden changes in fortune, usually caused by layoffs. The discarded shrink off in shame — after all, they must have done something wrong — and vanish from the unemployment statistics by going to Circuit City or Starbucks and taking whatever job they can get. To acknowledge their existence would be to admit that the "knowledge economy" is a delusion and to raise a rude finger in the face of the American dream.
It's a largely hidden problem, this quiet erosion of the middle class. While the chronically poor have been highlighted by the living-wage movement, downwardly mobile members of the middle class get short shrift, even from people of conscience.