Middle class bias - Macleans.ca

Middle class bias

Everyone’s favourite demographic


Martha Hall Findlay is also worried about Justin Trudeau’s focus on the middle class.

“If someone says ‘I’m going to focus on a particular group’ what does that say to everybody else?” she said. “Every Canadian wants a job, every Canadian wants a future for their kids and every Canadian wants to be proud of their country. So as a prime minister, the last thing I would want to say is that my focus is on a particular segment of our society.”

This is what she seemed to be trying to get at on Saturday when she decided to question Mr. Trudeau’s ability to understand the average Canadian’s financial situation (she expanded on her concerns in her subsequent apology). Here is Mr. Trudeau’s op-ed on the middle class. But Ms. Hall Findlay could ask the question of Barack Obama. Or Bob Rae. Or Michael Ignatieff.

This strikes me as an odd attack, not least because of the reason politicians focus on the middle class: most people consider themselves to be part of it. In a 2006 survey, 64.9% of Canadians identified themselves as either “upper middle class” or “lower middle class.”


Middle class bias

  1. ‘In a 2006 survey, 64.9% of Canadians identified themselves as either “upper middle class” or “lower middle class.”’

    Exactly. What most people consider themselves to be, and what Justin is.

    Because without a middle class a country falls apart….so naturally any leader focuses on them.

    • Yeah, as part of the middle class, I regularly make over half a million a year from speaking fees….

      • So, you’re lower middle class….or more likely, working class.

      • As part of the middle class, I know that $460,000 is less than half a million, and that making this much money once in a given year is not a regular income. However, getting $20,000 each year from an estate to supplement my earnings would be a regular event.

        • I see you failed to mention the trust fund of which he’s a beneficiary. That’s very middle class.

          • Yes, it’s very middle class. About 20K a year I believe. It’s an inheritance.

        • “since becoming an MP”, so he earned $277,000 in speaking fee’s on top of his $160,000/year MPs salary. And that says nothing of his earnings from speeches before he became an MP, nor the cushy trust fund Daddy left for him. Trudeau himself said that he isn’t, and has never been middle class. Are you calling Junior a liar?

          • He is not ‘middle’….he is ‘upper middle’ as I’ve said. He has to speak simply to people like you

    • Social class is not like gender identity. It is not a subjective marker, it is an objective, relational, and oppositional relation in society. Do indulge me again? At what point is one said to have arrived in the lower middle class? And how is that distinguishable from working class? If middle class means everybody, then it loses it mythic, aspirational quality. If it means earning 80000/yr, then it is a reminder of what is quickly dying out and out of reach for most people today thanks in part by decisions and wasteful governance by successive Liberal & Conservative governments.

      Trudeau really needs to stop with the platitudes and begin to articulate himself precisely and coherently. His contempt for the intelligence of young people, and his assumption that soccer moms and urban hipsters don’t care about policy and precision might be his undoing.

      • Lower middle class is badly paid white collar work. ‘Clean, indoor work with no heavy lifting’, as they say….but poor pay. Furniture sales, insurance sales….that kind of thing.

        Working class is a Wal Mart ‘associate’, a factory worker, a miner, a mover…..mostly dirty low-paid jobs, needing no education…..unless a union is involved of course which strikes until the wages are forced up…..

        Trudeau doesn’t have to do anything at all. ‘Retail politics’ means gladhanding, remembering people’s names, and ‘feeling their pain’. Nothing more.

        • And that’s it. Trudeau becomes PM, has a unicorn parade and the country rides off into the sunset all by itself.

          I love your class distinctions which seem to hinge on what collar is on one’s shirt. So a plumber who earns 80000/yr is working class. All the manufacturing jobs that have disappeared were working class. Trudeau doesn’t represent those people. But my sales guy at Best Buy is part of Trudeau’s constituency?

          You’re very cute. Look forward to hearing from you what the new politics is all about.

          • Well….history is a very powerful force….and tech an even bigger one…..and it won’t matter what or even who the PM is….in the end. Events change everything.

            I don’t make up collar colours….that was done long ago….blue collar, white collar, pink collar…..all part of the Industrial Age….which is now past.

            A plumber is a plumber is a plumber…..and if he makes a million bucks….he is still a plumber. Yup.

            Robots can do manufacturing jobs….yup, blue collar.

            I’m 66. I’m not ‘cute’. Don’t be sexist.

  2. martha,as a sometimes liberal supporter,time for you to take a walk in the snow ! i also know this has to be a blow to your campaign manager steven carters(con)ego as well,but its time for you to shut it down and move on.save yourself an embarrasment to your intellegence.

  3. Martha is trying to draw attention to her campaign but her stance on supply management isn’t engaging or visionary enough to excite, or even differentiate — if you want to talk substance, Martha, and point your finger, then YOU ought to pony up a little more substance yourself. This is a flailing and weak attack and won’t likely do much harm, if any, to the Trudeau juggernaut. I guess what we shall wait and see is if Trudeau wants to fight back or let it go — ie: Martha, don’t you think the leader should have a seat in the HoC? How else to prove one is stronger than Mulcair and Harper than to be on their turf and ready to fight? Nobody can help if they are born rich, poor, or middle class, and everyone has something to overcome: it’s what you do with the rest of your life that matters.

  4. Martha is smart enough to know that the “middle class” is a wide swath of people and vote rich territory. Her comments are somewhat unusual and unlikely to help her leadership bid. While she’s got every right to state her opinions, I’m not sure how it helps her, or indeed the Liberals in general????
    Am I misreading this?

    • She vested herself in the “class war” thing during the debates. Now she’s just continuing that line, because having to let it go completely would mean that she was completely wrong in it in the first place.

      A lot of people are willing to put themselves and others into a lot of hurt before admitting that they might be wrong.

      Which is really too bad, because being wrong is when we’re learning.

  5. North American middle classes are about the most blessed group of people on earth, they don’t need government help, Trudeau is immoral for not focusing on downtrodden. Trudeau’s obsessive focus on middle classes – even tho they are doing well – illustrates how an apple never falls far from tree.
    “In studies of the social origins of the German Nazi Party, the new middle class of white-collar employees and civil servants has received scant attention.”


    “Anyway, the so-called “new image” derives from Young Trudeau: 1919-1944 by Max and Monique Nemni, who reveal that as a young man Trudeau had fascist sympathies, was prone to the routine anti-Semitism of mid-century Quebec francophones, blamed Britain for the Second World War, and spent it riding around Montreal wearing a German helmet.”


    • If an apple never falls far from tree I assume your father believed he was God.

  6. ““If someone says ‘I’m going to focus on a particular group’ what does that say to everybody else?” she said.

    PJ O’Rourke – When government does, occasionally, work, it works in an elitist fashion. That is, government is most easily manipulated by people who have money and power already. This is why government benefits usually go to people who don’t need benefits from government. Government may make some environmental improvements, but these will be improvements for rich bird-watchers. And no one in government will remember that when poor people go bird-watching they do it at Kentucky Fried Chicken

  7. I have it up to here about the JustinTrudeauism (middle-class Canadians) and the Harperism (ordinary Canadians). I would prefer to hear from politicians who don’t feel a need to label us and put us in “little boxes all the same” to hide their discomfort when dealing with the populace.

  8. That survey was not only almost a decade ago, it was certainly before the greatest recession since the Great Depression. To properly make the claim that most people consider themselves middle class, rather than, to paraphrase Steinbeck, temporarily embarrassed millionaires, one would need first to define middle class and next have a more current sampling.

    Closer to reality might well be the situation in Toronto where we the the consolidation of wealth and the creation of a two tiered city- the few who have and the many who have not.

    I get that Trudeau wants to be the new saviour of the 1% and the shiny happy face of neoliberal capitalist disparity, but he shouldn’t call it the middle class.

    • Canadians still consider themselves middle-class….recessions come and go. You don’t change your class like you change your shirt ya know.

      • Please indulge me. 1) Define middle class. 2) Show me recent data. There’s a difference between being middle class and aspiring to be middle class. I know that household debts are at all time high. I know that unionization rates -the very thing that created the middle class in N. America- are at an all time low. I know that 50% of Torontonians do not have full-time employment.

        Empty platitudes about rebuilding what has disappeared, sound appealing to the ignorant but you gotta bring the substance sometime.

        • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_class

          Class isn’t money…..Tony Soprano will never be upper class for example. The Queen….even if Britain tosses the monarchy…will never be lower or middle class.

          It has to do with social standing and education.

          A lawyer will always have the same class…. social standing…. boom, recession, war, peace…..Same with a doctor, architect, dentist…..they are upper-middle class.

          And losing your job doesn’t make any difference to your class.

          50% of Torontonians are not unemployed. Toronto produces 20% of the national GDP.

          There is upper, middle and lower class. Each of them is divided into 3 generally speaking. So in the one you’re talking about there is lower middle class, middle-middle class and upper middle-class.

          Justin is upper-middle as are thousands of others. Factory workers are lower class…or working class they are sometimes called. Blue collar…Joe Lunchpail. Americans often count them as lower-middle, but middle is usually white collar.

          This is an entire discipline in sociology and has been studied and followed for years….not just some random remark.

          • Interesting. So you’re a fellow Marxist. Glad to have you on board. I completely agree with a Marxist analysis of social class and we should dispense with crude indicators such as SES to measure power and wealth. Do you distinguish as well between social, cultural, and financial capital. Yes, class is a relational and oppositional term. Either you are part of the 1% -a euphemism for the rapaciously greedy exploiters or the 99% -a euphemism for the exploited source of surplus value in the system.

            Anyway, I’m sure Trudeau is not trotting out some Marxist notion of social class. Although I’d be curious to hear whether he agrees that Joe Lunchpail, as member of the working class, is not someone he’s interested in representing.

            As a pandering, hype machine, I’m pretty sure what Trudeau is promising, after he moves mountains, is the return us to the gilded age of capitalist prosperity, where people have well paying jobs, they own homes, and have a pension in retirement. This was the gilded age, brought to you not only by post WWII economic expansion but largely by the union movement, in which it is said we had a thriving “middle class”.

            Problem is today we do not enjoy the economic dominance and growth of that time, and neoliberalism has all but eroded the upward pressure applied by organized labour in the system. Instead, labour is increasing “precarious” and wages subject to downward pressure as fewer people are unionized. BTW, I did not say the 50% in Toronto are unemployed, I said that 50% do not have full-time employment (i.e. yet another indicator of the increasing precariousness of the labour force). I’m sure this precariousness is further accentuated by the fact that many who do have full-time employment are working at cut throat wages with little hope of advancement just to make ends meet.

            But a hype machine full of empty rhetoric and twitter followers will resolve all that. If Trudeau had anything other than typical Liberal middling intelligence, he would know better and see himself for the embarrassment that he is.

          • Mmm no. I have no idea how you arrived at that conclusion but I’m not even a teensy bit left, much less Marxist.

            I regard the left and rightwing as equally crazy, and with the end of the Cold War last century….totally out of date.

          • We wouldn’t want to be out of date now would we. Let me guess you’ve found 21st century Goldilocks Liberalism. Anyway I was being facetious about the Marxist thing above, although it did appear you might launch into a discussion of class consciousness.

            I like that you’re game for answering questions and wish my world was as cut & dried as yours.

          • No, the future is kinda like Star Trek if you need an example. No money, no manufacturing, no capitalism, no socialism….quite different than what we currently have…so historical to me.

            Class fascinates me because everyone pretends it doesn’t exist….while frantically trying to improve their own level.

            I have no problem with being in the 1%…..as long as everyone else gets the chance to do the same. ‘Upward mobility’….or ‘access to the system’ is what we need.

          • Emily, it is absurd to call JT “Upper middle class” when he’s clearly in the upper 1% of income earners. His speaking fees alone put him in the upper 1%, then there’s his MP’s salary on top of it, plus his trust fund income, and god knows what else. So in your books, you can be in the upper 1% of income earners and still be middle class. Fascinating.

          • Well I’m sorry, but upper middle class is all JT is.

            You want 1%….go talk to the third Lord Thompson of Fleet in Toronto….and the others like him. Multi-millionaires, billionaires and even titles.

            And I don’t own the books hon….this is a well-studied field.

          • $230,000 / yr is all it takes to be in the top 1% of earners in Canada, and Junior’s certainly in that group. You *could* claim that Thompson is the standard for 1%, but he’s the richest guy in the country. Maybe you’re confusing 1% and #1?

          • And as you’ve been told it isn’t about money, although Canada has plenty of billionaires…..

            Plus millionaires of course….5M is ‘walking-around money’. You need 10 to even be serious.

            Maybe you’re confusing your brains with partisan mush.

          • My God, you’re obtuse.

          • My god, you’re obvious.

  9. Canada is not a classless society but it is a society without a lot of class resentment. And good for us, I think.

    I also think that Hall-Findlay is just trying to provide a little turbulence for Trudeau because the constant love-in that had been the Liberal leadership race up until now, was not doing him any favours. I’m not saying this is scripted like the WWF, but I don’t think that these shots across the bow are entirely off-the-cuff either.

  10. Martha is flailing. And flailing hasn’t worked to harvest (crops or votes) in centuries.

  11. I know I could Google around for it, but do we have a good notion of what exactly “middle class” is? Presumably it should be anyone who makes between $X and $Y, but what are X and Y? It seems to me that the best definition might be to take the mean income for Canadians, and define the “middle class” as the 25% immediately below that number, plus the 25% immediately above that number. In other words, the 50% of Canadians who are closest to the mean.

    That said, I have no idea what that would be, or if it even makes sense as a ballpark figure.

    • Is the median not preferable to the mean in this case?

      • Perhaps.

  12. Martha has decided to be a right-winger …soon, she will join the Conservatives or maybe the Wild Rose party.

  13. I am surprised that no-one has mentioned MHF’s resume until I checked it myself today and notice there have been changes made – for example it used to list “President of Georgian Peaks Ski Club” and “President of Point au Baril Cottage Assoc.” – now that section reads simply, “She has served as a Director and Executive (including in some cases as President) for various community, ratepayer, and environmental organizations…”

    Interesting – because of course both those Clubs are severely Upper Middle Class!

    Is this a new twist on the pot calling the kettle…?