Is 'middle class' a Marxist term?

Rick Santorum says Americans shouldn't define themselves by economic boundaries. 'Since when in America do we have classes?' he asks.

By Kim Peterson Sep 5, 2013 7:05AM
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference / Joshua Roberts/Reuters Every time a major election rolls around, political candidates reveal a near-obsession with the middle class. After all, middle-class voters make up a vast and important constituency, one that politicians must woo for any chance of success.

But is the idea of a middle class itself anti-American? Is it Marxist, in fact?

That's what former presidential candidate Rick Santorum thinks. Speaking to a group of Republican supporters in Iowa in August, he noted that President Barack Obama talks about the middle class all the time. (See the video here.)

"Since when in America do we have classes?" Santorum asked. "Since when in America are people stuck in areas or defined places called a class? That's Marxism talk."

He encouraged Republicans to stop talking about the "middle class" because it divides the country. "Stop it," he said. "There's no class in America."

His comments were somewhat debunked by an essay on The American Conservative website, which noted that class distinctions existed long before Marx. In fact, the theory of class conflict was developed by classical liberals and emerged as early as 1837. Modern libertarians have attempted to reclaim that original vision, writes Anthony Gregory, with their opposition to the taxing state and the way the banking and defense industries "line their pockets at the expense of the people."

Still, Santorum's view is a fascinating one. He embraces an idyllic vision of America in which there are no economic distinctions and income mobility is unlimited, where anyone can get anywhere through hard work and determination.

Certainly there are examples of rags-to-riches life stories, of extraordinary people who were able to pull themselves out of poverty on their own. But it's becoming much tougher to do that. The class lines in America are not only real, but they are hardening. The country is practically a real-life "Downton Abbey" at this point.

Consider one study showed that 42% of American men raised in poverty stay there as adults. That's much higher than the 25% in Denmark and the 30% in Britain, The New York Times reports. And the rags-to-riches story is very rare: Just 8% of American men in poverty rise to the top fifth of incomes.

Income mobility, or the ability to move into wealthier classes, fell by a "statistically significant degree" between 1995 and 2005, the Boston Federal Reserve reports.

Your location may play a role. One recent Harvard University study found that in cities like Atlanta, where low-income families often have little to no interaction with higher-income individuals, a child born in poverty has just a 4% chance of becoming wealthy. But in cities like Salt Lake City and San Francisco, the chance of that climb rises to over 11%.

Santorum may view the phrase "middle class" as Marxist -- although, curiously, he has used the term several times before -- his comments shouldn't be dismissed outright. In an ideal world, Americans should not be held back by class lines, and everyone should have an equal chance to make it in life. But in reality, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting locked out of opportunities, and those trends aren't changing whether you utter the words "middle class" or not.

More on moneyNOW
Tags: Politics
Sep 5, 2013 9:14AM
What if every American had a Legit College Degree in a relevant field. Then what. The college Degrees lose their value. The pay scale then reflects that. Everyone can't be wealthy, a Fiat based system was not built to support that. There have been classes since the inception of humans. They used to called the Kings and Nobles with everyone else being peasants. Clearly some posters hope for a return to those days.

Speaking of entitlements, the SuperRich have been benefiting from entitlements from the Government since like forever. It's just never talked about to the same level of what the working poor and others receive. Government regulations are not defining classes, it's the selfish SuperRich that are defining it. The Fact that every once in a while, a person makes it, and folks jump up and down and say see, anyone can do it. Everyone can't. That's Alice in Wonderland.

Sep 5, 2013 10:46AM
I thought it was in communism that there were no class distinction.
Sep 5, 2013 10:42AM
The wealthy use to enslave people and live in mansions.  Now they enslave us by paying nothing and watching their wealth soar again.  Plantation business practices haven't gone away they have just found a different way to operate.
Sep 5, 2013 11:12AM
An article based on the ramblings of Rick Santorum .... Nothing he says is worth debating, and to deny a class system in this country, proves my point.
Sep 5, 2013 10:56AM
What wealthy people who were born into wealth don't realize is that the hardest working people are the poor. I hate when the rich say just work hard and you will get ahead. That is a bunch of bunk. Most wealth is inherited not made.  Many of the wealthy have oportunities in education and who they know to get where they are.  The poor person on the lowest rung of a business works very hard and many times needs to work more than one job just to get by. I guarntee you a CEO going to business lunches and riding around in a limo isnt working as hard. The rich and corporate America need to get a clue before the so called poor vote to raise their taxes into the 90 % range and more fairly distribute the wealth. Companies are just hording billions of untaxed dollars while not hiring people and now government wants to cut food stamps. The wealthy should be ashamed but I am sure they don't give a thought to the poor on their way to the country club.   
Sep 5, 2013 11:40AM

Well I have worked hard for the last 30 years, yes I am better off than I grew up, and yes I may be considered wealthy by some lower standards. Though I am still middle class compared to my poverty upbringing.

Even if most wealth is earned and most millionaires are self made. The only way they have achieved this is through both rich and poor sacrificing to build a better society the last 100 years. Problem is today too many believe that too many people are living off others, too many people are hoarding their wealth. Greed during my 30 years as an adult has become the new normal. A CEO is now paid 1000 times the average employee versus just 100 times just 30 years ago. The income divide has become to great.

Then bring on wage stagnation and no one that works for a wage is making any progress. They are just getting by. After so long of just getting by people tend to give up due to lack of opportunities. People need something to desire.

Now with college educated individuals at an all time high as a percentage of the population employers have what they want, an educated mass of people they can manipulate with the almighty dollar. You take what they offer or you starve under the burden of all the debt you took on to get that education.

So someone tell me that the poor or even lower middle class has the opportunity to get ahead in today's market place. Unless you had something to begin with, or were lucky to have won the economic lottery and landed in the right career field that is in demand at the moment, or invented the next great product, or was just a better thief than the next guy. Then you are struggling. That is why people are starting to revolt. Just wait another 15 years and let someone comment about no class society. People will rise and take back this country for the rich, the politicians, and the rich politicians.


Sep 5, 2013 11:01AM
I bet the victims of Titanic would disagree that America has no classes. Everyone everywhere is categorized. By income, what you drive, where you went to college... its an endless process 
Sep 5, 2013 8:56AM
This is just another example of how our language has been subtly changed over the last few decades, and not in a good way.

We used to refer to people as employees, now we call them "workers".  Marx would be so proud.

The word "think" has been replaced with "feel" in far too many contexts, to the point that in our society, these completely different words are used interchangeably in many cases.

Instead of referring to them as "women" or "ladies" or "girls" or "gals", women are constantly referred to as females, like they are no different than animals.

Instead of history, kids learn "social studies".  Instead of English, they learn "language arts".  Instead of arithmetic, kids learn "investigative math", where there's no right or wrong answer, as long as they can show how they went about solving the problem.

There are but a few examples.

Sep 5, 2013 11:12AM

Statements like this make it clear that Santorum knows so little about American history that I wonder if he's even a citizen. :-P

Sep 5, 2013 11:58AM
In a few years it will be a moot point anyways. There will only be the super rich, and everyone else.
Sep 5, 2013 11:42AM

Actually we have only two claases of people in the USA.


1. Those that work for a living

2. Those that vote for a living.



Sep 5, 2013 11:55AM
There is one thing about Santorum he has no class at all.
Sep 5, 2013 11:33AM
The irony here is very laughable: if Santorum wants to do away with "classes" in our society, then he's irrevocably Marxist and socialist!!! Marx & other neo-Marxists theorized an utopian world that was classless, equal, equitable, ruled by the dictum "from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs". So what is he, really Santorum?? Capitalist or socialist???
Sep 5, 2013 12:50PM

My sister is a Special Ed teacher and she has a good analogy.  She says, "No child is diagnosed as mentally retarded anymore.  We have cured it".


We are very much a class system. We just look for sugar coated terms to conceal it.

Sep 5, 2013 10:51AM
I suppose that there are no poor people or rich people anymore.
Changing the wording doesn't change the situation.
I used to like Santorum more than I do lately. But he's starting to sound like a RICH politician.
Maybe we can drop things like affirmative action and head start and all of these programs.
We don't need them anymore, all things being equal.

Sep 5, 2013 10:43AM
Republicans should know more about Marxism then anyone since they are all about selling you out to communist China.
Sep 5, 2013 12:02PM
Article should say "Since when do we care about Rick Santorum's opinion" nuff said
Sep 5, 2013 12:58PM
On Jan 4th 2012 Rick Santorum talked about saving the middle class through job creation.  This man is discredited and should just go away.
Sep 5, 2013 10:50AM

The Republicans obviously hate the middle class, they will use any means to brainwash people into hating their own rights and freedom. Especially the right to earn a fair buck.



Sep 5, 2013 11:25AM
A friend of mine taught in a town of less then 700 people. She taught mostly grade school. One of her students family was on welfare. He told the teacher. When he got older. If he needed something. He would just go to the mailbox. That is what he parents did. You will have a hard changing this attitude. By the way he was white.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

Trending NOW

What’s this?


[BRIEFING.COM] The major averages posted solid gains ahead of tomorrow's policy directive from the Federal Open Market Committee. The S&P 500 rallied 0.8%, while the Russell 2000 (+0.3%) could not keep pace with the benchmark index.

Equity indices hovered near their flat lines during the first two hours of action, but surged in reaction to reports from the Wall Street Journal concerning tomorrow's FOMC statement. Specifically, Fed watcher Jon Hilsenrath indicated that the statement ... More