New Definition of 'Middle Class' in U.S. to Apply in 2017
STEVEN LISBERGER - JUNE 30, 2016
Over five days experts gathered at the historic Mount Washington Hotel, located in Bretton Woods, NH, where in 1944 modern economics was born. Their task was to determine - once and for all - a definition of ‘middle class’. “There’s surprisingly little agreement, not just among academics, but also policymakers, which is a problem,” said Mani Ratnam, a research fellow of the Lawrence J. Breckenridge Institute, a long-time socioeconomic bellwether. “For example, the poverty line provides a pretty clear lower-threshold, but we found in a study of 218 government-issued publications that the discrepancy for upper threshold could be as much as fifty thousand dollars a year.” Or twice the income of a family of four living at the poverty line.
Convening last Sunday, June 26, the national leaders on the issue fell into a routine of breakout meetings in the morning, followed by full-assembly lunch meetings in the Rosebrook section of the Hotel, looking out onto the mountains. “It was some of the best food I’ve ever had,” said Chen Kaige, Nobel-laureate and Economics Professor Emeritus at Duke. “After the spectacular meals, instead of afternoon sessions, we usually didn’t have any energy, and just went back to our rooms.”
It was the second-to-last day when the breakthrough came, fittingly while in the Rosebrook. “I was sitting next to Elsa Morante,” an independent researcher who published The Middle (Class) Way in 2009, “and noticed she was taking a picture of her lobster baked with gruyere and new potato shavings. That’s when I hit upon the definition we’d all been looking for in charts and statistics for four days.”
With great excitement, according to the fellow members, the idea was shouted across the room to the conference head by Alex Mackendrick, the man sitting next to Morante’s lobster-doting photography: “Food porn!” “And with those two words, the room erupted,” he recalls.
About half an hour was spent wrangling over the new official definition, to be implemented in all U.S. publications starting in January of 2017. The main contention was whether you qualified as ‘middle class’ by being able to afford taking food porn pictures at restaurants or if you had to produce the salivating-worthy dishes - and pics - at home. “There was definitely a pro-restaurant faction,” Kaige disclosed. “I was one of them!” But in the end, the at-home delegation won out. To be properly middle class in America means you must have the means, know-how, and camera filters to pull off food porn in your own kitchen. The conference attendees upheld the motion almost unanimously, 136-14.
With the decision made, and rather hastily written up, the panel dispersed, to enjoy the “food comas” brought on by “a truly marvelous spread”. The final day of the conference was mainly spent in the Rosebrook. The White House, whose top representative at the “New Bretton Woods” was Deputy Treasury Secretary Al Jolson, issued a statement this afternoon. In it the President lauded a new definition which he said “will replace a confusing, and sometimes contradictory set of numbers” with “a common-sense understanding all Americans can get behind.”