Progressive groups say Michigan’s middle class disappearing [The Maycomb Daily]

By Charles Crumm
Journal Register Newspapers

Their report says Snyder gives to rich at expense of public schools

Michigan’s middle class faces a bleak future, a report released Thursday by three progressive policy groups concludes.

Lansing-based Progress Michigan and the Michigan League for Human Services, along with the Washington, D.C., office of the political advocacy organization Demos, said that Michigan is plagued by a lack of good jobs, high unemployment, falling earnings, declining access to benefits, high costs for education and raising a family, and diminished economic prospects for young people compared to 30 years ago.

“Michigan was where the great American middle class was forged,” said Heather McGhee of Demos in a conference call Thursday. “Now Michigan’s middle class is endangered.”

The report takes aim at public policy decisions and notes that Gov. Rick Snyder this week signed an “austerity budget” that gives businesses generous tax breaks while cutting spending on public education.

The report’s release also coincides with a congressional “listening tour” that makes a stop Monday in Detroit.

Called “Speakout for good jobs now,” Democratic U.S. Reps. John Conyers and Hansen Clarke, both of Detroit, invite people to share their stories from 6-8 p.m. at Historic King Solomon Baptist Church, 6100 14th St., Detroit.

Similar stops are also planned in other cities across the country by congressional Democrats during July and August.

Jobs and the economy are expected to be among the main issues during the 2012 presidential and congressional campaign season and the pitched political battle for control of Congress.

Leigh Fifelski, of Progress Michigan, said people are working harder for less and that there’s less security and less promise for the next generation.

“Michigan’s middle class is sliding towards extinction,” she said. “The new face of the American middle class doesn’t look so good.”

Karen Holcomb-Merrill at the Michigan League for Human Services said that average debt for students in Michigan with four-year degrees is $25,000, 12th highest in the country, and that young workers in Michigan struggle to find jobs.

“While the state appears to be moving out of the recession, many people continue to struggle,” she said.

To highlight the report’s conclusions, the conference call also included remarks from 27-year-old Aaron Quinney of Lansing.

Quinney said he graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in 2008 with a degree in family studies and has “no consistent job and a lot of school debt.

“Today I sit here unemployed, still looking for work,” he said.

The full report can be viewed at


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