Middle class has been shrinking for decades

Well, the economists finally made it official this week: We're in a recession. And, guess what? They said it began a year ago.

If you're like the three-fourths of Americans who consider themselves to be "middle class," this probably didn't come as a surprise. Many people feel as if they've been losing economic ground for years. That's because many of them have been.

America has been a generally prosperous nation since World War II, achieving the highest overall standard of living in the planet's history. The reasons are many, including advances in technology and global economic trends that have made goods cheap and available. Americans have been innovative, entrepreneurial and they have worked hard. At times, the nation has made significant public investments in physical infrastructure, such as highways, and social infrastructure, such as schools.

But the pain being felt in this recession has brought new attention to a trend economists have been watching for years: The rich really are getting richer, the poor really are getting poorer and the middle class has been shrinking steadily since the late 1970s.

It's a reality that government policy-makers and business leaders must deal with as they try to pull us out of this mess. The issue could be especially important for Kentuckians, who lag behind their fellow Americans in just about every measure of economic well-being. Read the complete story at