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Riddle me this: The squeezed ‘middle earners’… February 4, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

Big article by Kathy Sheriden in the Irish Times this morning about “the hopes and plans of Ireland’s middle-earners?”.

The definition of same isn’t clear, though they know who they aren’t.

Donal is also experiencing relentless cuts. “Before, it was always done on the basis of being a ‘temporary help’ [for the company], but it’s taken as the norm now. I’m waiting for the next one – another 10 per cent. But it’s not the norm,” he says angrily, “because you’re taking home much less pay for more work and more responsibility. I’m looking at the guy down the road, in a council house, on family income supplement, and everyone in it has a medical card. We’re lucky we’re not sick, but if you were you’d be dead, thinking twice about visiting the doctor. And then you see people in five-bedroom houses on social welfare, paying 80 bucks a month to live in Bray. And these guys are having their annual holidays et cetera. We’re paying for that.”

Miriam nods. “That annoys me big-time. People who haven’t worked a day in their lives, whose parents never worked, all getting money to live, getting unmarried this and social that. I’m not entitled to anything. We don’t need anything – touch wood – but we’ve had to tighten our belts big time.”

Hmmm… Now might be the time to reflect upon Michael Taft’s latest piece which references the CSO’s definition of deprivation:

CSO defines deprivation by reference to eleven categories.

Two pairs of strong shoes · warm waterproof overcoat · Buy new (not second-hand) clothes · Eat a meal with meat, chicken, fish (or vegetarian equivalent) every second day · Have a roast joint or its equivalent once a week · Had to go without heating during the last year through lack of money · Keep the home adequately warm · Buy presents for family or friends at least once a year · Replace any worn out furniture · .Have family or friends for a drink or meal once a month · .Have a morning, afternoon or evening out in the last fortnight for entertainment

If someone is unable to afford two or more the above, then they are classified in the deprivation rate.

And of those in work the current rate of deprivation is 12 per cent [and those are self-evidently the lower paid]. What of those out of work? The rate is 37.4 per cent.

But just when you think that the definition is becoming a bit clearer, what of this?

[Gerard O’Neill of Amárach] identifies middle-aged people as the most squeezed group. The younger ones, not yet trapped, can head for the exit, he says. But even in the best of times, the level of happiness by age reaches its lowest ebb in the early 40s, an indicator of inevitable life-stage pressures.

“People in their 40s and early 50s are at the peak of their spending pressures,” says O’Neill. “A lot would have children in private schools and at the same time are suddenly noticing their parents growing older and having issues . . . You’re kind of trapped. It’s a crisis of obligation, both as a parent and as an adult child looking after your own parents.”

Really? Many of this squeezed middle would have children in private schools?

So remind us again how many children are in private schools. Because this squeezed middle is enormous. 70 per cent? 60 per cent? Nope. It has to be over 50 per cent surely? No. 40 per cent, because the middle would be a large fraction of the overall. No again. 30 per cent? No. 20 per cent? No.

In actual fact it’s 7 per cent.

Whatever else about the IT these days who can disagree with the proposition that they know their base?


1. Gerard Murphy (@gfmurphy101) - February 4, 2012

Wonder is the IT in its struggle for survival trying to muscle in on the S/Indo’s propaganda train?? On a serious note

http://endofcapitalism.com/about/4-what-comes-after-capitalism/ a few quote’s from the above article seems apts

“As the capitalist iron giant stumbles, the fearful will propose desperate solutions to keep the system running”

which can be dangerous because it can lead to this
“Fascism appeals to those who wish to maintain their privilege, wealth and power in times of crisis, by deflecting the costs of the deteriorating economy towards those on the bottom of the social pyramid”

first they burned books!!!!!!!!!!


WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2012

The print edition which I didn’t see this morning is a real treat. Three pages of this and Dan O Brien too on why the middle classes are the driver of… Well… Everything!!!!


2. EWI - February 4, 2012

The Sindo explicitly caters to the whiny, self-obsessed Irish middle class and their massive egos. It’s depressing to see the IT, as people say, trying to get in on this loathsome act.

A comparison of the ‘benefits’ your average working-class and middle-class person are entitle to claim (and actually do claim – not everyone can afford accountants) would be very instructive. I don’t see how tax reliefs, subsidy of elite arts, private schools etc. doesn’t count and shouldn’t be characterised as middle-class welfare.


Bartley - February 4, 2012

subsidy of elite arts … be characterised as middle-class welfare

Could you be any more condescending towards the folks you purport to represent?

Why equate cuture with stuff wot posh people like?

What next, public libraries that great middle class conspiracy … they score free books for thier kids, but there\’s no state subsidy for the Sky subscription.


WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2012

Actually I’m largely with you Bartley on the arts culture issue. There’s much lower class barriers to enjoyment of supposedly elite arts and cultural pursuits than I often supposed and those into them are drawn widely from all classes. This isn to say there aren’t class aspects to them but even opera which gets a bad rap image wise has a devoted pan class following. Same with fin art of all types and classical music.


ejh - February 4, 2012

even opera which gets a bad rap image wise has a devoted pan class following.

It does, and that following includes me. (Ideally, anyway, though I haven’t been able to go for a few years, whereas when I lived in London I went two or three times a year.) But nevertheless most of the tickets, at the great opera houses at any rate, are well beyond the pockets of most of us, and hence in practice, subsidies that are paid, for instance, in the UK to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, operate very largely as a subsidy to the very well-off.

Not entirely, and I’ve been a beneficiary. And I’d like that subsidy to continue. But to my mind, writing as a lover of classical music (and a qualified librarian, for that matter) it’s Bartley and not EWI who’s grandstanding above.


3. Paddy M - February 4, 2012

In actual fact it’s 7 per cent.

You forget the “Ireland = upper middle class coastal Dublin” equation.


WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2012

:). Too true. But actually that’s a good point… Got to look at the concentration of fee charging schools….


4. Jonathan - February 4, 2012

According to the article, Vivian Cummins’ thriving architectural practice [in other words, a business sustained by an unsustainable property bubble] has reduced by three-quarters, so he says “If things start to get worse, all we can do is fall and throw ourselves on the mercy of the public-health system and social-welfare system.” He also says: “I feel like we’re medieval serfs … It’s like people in the Famine working to pay the landlord, stuck eating potatoes while the beef and wheat were sent to pay the rent.” So the possibility that you might have to give up your private health insurance and, possibly, go on the dole, is the modern-day equivalent of eating grass to avoid starving to death by the side of the road? Yet if the dole is so bloody wonderful, as several commentators state, what are they worried about?


WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2012

It’s the expectation of losing out on the two skiing holidays a year that really hits home, and the way it could be done a the drop of a hat….and what of the misery of having to face up to the €60 each doctors appt.

FFS. When I had pneumonia before Xmas I spent 180 plus costs of antibiotics … But I’ve never been in a position where 60 could be spent without thought.


Northside Socialist - February 5, 2012

“It’s the expectation of losing out on the two skiing holidays a year that really hits home”

Yes, I almost could not read any further at the injustice of the above, the suffering must be almost unbearable…how we we allow our middle-class to suffer such indignaties I do not know.


5. CL - February 4, 2012

The middle class is of concern to Mitt Romney too, and he’s not concerned with the poor as they have a ‘safety net’

“I’m concerned about the very heart of America,” Romney said, adding later: “My focus is on middle-income Americans.”


WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2012

A terrible insight, though one suspects he’s no more sincere in that than and his concern is with a higher income bracket again. By the way the class analysis in the piece really really stank.


CL - February 4, 2012

Yeah, in America, anyone who is not on welfare or is not a multi-millionaire is considered ‘middle-class’.


make do and mend - February 4, 2012

This is response to Mitt’s statements from the ecology-sustainability crowd. The writer doesn’t have a Left bone in her body, so to speak – nor does the site cited below. And I’ve never read her work before where she used a ‘cuss’ word before.

“Now let’s be clear – we all knew Mitt Romney did not give a flying fuck about the poor. Other than the occasional service provider, he’s never met any poor people, first of all. Moreover, it is a fact that no presidential candidate, Democratic or Republican for the last 30 years has cared about the very poor. Add in the fact that Mitt demonstrably cares only about his hair, campaign donors (not a lot of them among the very poor) and getting elected, and this isn’t exactly news. . .

Ultimately, Mitt is pretty safe in saying this, because he’s playing on a whole host of American presumptions about poor people that are generally shared – even by many poor people. First of all, that the poor constitute only a tiny percentage of people, while 95% of us are “middle class.” In America, everyone is middle class – it is one of our cultural precepts. There is lower middle class, which for the most part could be more accurately described as “poor’ or “poorish” and upper middle class (better known as “richish” or actually rich), but very few people who will willingly call themselves rich or poor. This is, of course, factually ridiculous, but it is part of our national mythos.”

Full article:


I’m delighted that the Western corporate media is highlighting class. OK, they’re spinning the narrative to set workers at each other’s throats and deflect attention from the crisis of their ideology, but so what. That they have to resort to these explicit tatics begins to reveal their vulnerabilities

When the monied talk, the poor and soon to be poor and the soon to question their middle class credentials always listen.


yourcousin - February 5, 2012

Best line of political insight this whole election season came from Prairie Home Companion last night, “the Mormon versus the polygamist”.


6. Feadog - February 4, 2012

Interesting how we have classes in society now that it suits the well-heeled. Previously anyone mentioning class was howled down for daring to raise that ould Marxist stuff.


7. LeftAtTheCross - February 4, 2012

Stomach churning stuff. Got home from a few hours handing out leaflets on the CAHWT in Navan to find the IT on the kitchen table and that article staring up at me. Amazing piece. Such different realities of the IT writers and the actually existing squeezed class, who were overwhelmingly positive about the CAHWT today outside the shopping centre in town today. Those IT writers should really get out of Ranelagh the odd time and see how the rest of the world gets by in the real world squeeze. And not just to write those quaint pieces on how the recession is forcing places like Youghal and whatever to rediscover themselves as holistic alternative centres of positive mind body and spirit shite, goats milk yoghurt and designer home-knits etc.


8. ivorthorne - February 4, 2012

Has anyone ever sent a letter to the IT when they publish crap like this? Or how about the Sindo when it makes multiple factual errors? Would there be any benefit?


Dr.Nightdub - February 4, 2012

Yeah, I did years ago in response to some guff Myers had written about the Orange Order, and it was published.

My next foray was in response to some guff another letter-writer had written about AIDS and condoms, when I saw it I thought “I’m not letting him away with that!” When it was published, my mum rang me – “If you disagree with your father, could you not just phone him instead of having a family argument for everyone to see in the Irish Times?”


WorldbyStorm - February 4, 2012


That is a joke… No? If not its genius.


ivorthorne - February 5, 2012

I’m with WBS. I would love for that to be true.


Dr.Nightdub - February 5, 2012

The bit about me and my da? 100% true – I still have the two letters in a drawer somewhere. What really killed him was that he sent in a response to my response, but the I.Times didn’t publish it – so I had the last word.

He actually had quite a distinguished career as an inveterate letter-writer, going back to the late 60s / early 70s when we were in Belfast. Cos of the potential repercussions, the Irish News suggested he start using a pen-name, so “Tom Henry” was born (my granda’s full baptismal name was Thomas Henry); he only found out years afterwards my mum had begged the I.News not to publish any more letters from him in case it’d make him a target, and the pen-name suggestion was a compromise. Only trouble was he’d often have the exact same letter published under “Tom Henry” in the I.News and under his real name in the southern papers.

His letter-writing heyday was probably in the aftermath of internment, when he was working closely with Fr. Faul and Fr. Murray to highlight what was going on. I have a wee wooden plaque that was given to him, carved in Long Kesh with the inscription “With thanks to Tom Henry” and signed on the back by all the men in a particular cage – including an “S.O Suileabhan” (who I reckon may have been Jim Sullivan) and one Alec Maskey.

Nowadays, he’s convinced the I.Times have him on some secret blacklist, as they haven’t published any letters from him for years.


WorldbyStorm - February 6, 2012

That’s what in part makes this site worth the time and effort – to read a tale like that. Excellent.


9. IS THE IRISH TIMES AGENDA TO HELP BLAME THE BLAMELESS! « gfmurphy101 - February 4, 2012

[…] earners or otherwise. The guys down at Cedar Lounge Revolution also pondered this thought. This article/comments points out some issues that may offer dispute to the use of the “middle class” tag. […]


10. Crocodile - February 4, 2012

Conor Goodman of the IT has a more sensible approach in the comments on the ‘squeezedmiddle’ (sic) site:
‘Putting this series together has been enlightening. My personal conclusions in talking to people about it are that every age group/social class feels it is carrying a disproportionate burden, and everybody has seen their lives change to some extent. However, those in the worst situations are people whose personal circumstances left them exposed: those who bought their houses at certain times or lost jobs in vulnerable sectors. These factors have been more important than income bracket or social class in determining who is most squeezed.  
But as we will learn as the series progresses next week, eveyone in Ireland, rich, poor or in between, is a victim of the big squeeze.’

Indeed. But not every group in society has so many media mouthpieces to voice its concerns. And, as I’ve said before, nobody’s been more ‘exposed’ than media workers.
One point about the IT’s self-pity-fest; it does make an admission that there are sectors that have done very well out of the slump – like employees of multi-nationals and most farmers; that’s a truth rarely acknowledged in the media.



11. Garibaldy - February 5, 2012

The problem with this thread is that it reminds me of Harris and his coping classes/Moby Dick routine. Which reminds me that it’s nearly Sunday, and time for a trip to Sindoworld. Ugh.


12. D_D - February 5, 2012

Big dramatic feature in the ‘Irish Times’ with a special introduction from the Editor: when the middle class are feeling the pinch. Where was the Editor when the lowest were being squeezed? Oh, yeah, justifying it from the editorials of the ‘Irish Times’.


13. bartholomew - February 5, 2012

What a fantastic article. They’re not private schools, they’re ‘carefully selected schools’; Donal is not a banker, he ‘has a background in banking’; and all those people ‘stuck eating potatoes’ during the Famine… how did they survive?

About fathers, sons and letter writers – Ruairi McGinley, Fine Gael city councillor, is or was an anti-fluoridation campaigner. Years ago, a letter appeared in the IT criticising him for this and advocating fluoride. The letter was written by his father, who was a dentist, IIRC.


14. Dr.Nightdub - February 5, 2012

Only got around to reading the main part of yesterday’s I.Times today. Page 5 really piles one anxiety onto another: at the top is an article headed “Crash wiped €230bn off net worth of households.” Below that there’ss “Minister very concerned at VHI’s annual increase of 9%” Then at the bottom there’s “Third-level charges set to rise with further annual increases to 2015”.


15. Crocodile - February 6, 2012

This is a manifesto, probably, from new editor Kevin O’Sullivan – it’s the first time he’s attached his imprimatur and photograph to a ‘campaign’. His IT is going to be for the people who still read newspapers and vote in elections, too busy to worry about the poor, like Mitt Romney.
Meanwhile, in our travel supplement, where to find the best skiing this spring and where to eat in Paris after the rugby international.


16. More on the ‘Middle Class’… « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - February 10, 2012

[…] I’d want to echo a point made by Crocodile in comments about on the subject of the Irish Times ‘Middle Class’ report. That is the fact that this was the first public article the editor had added his own imprimatur to […]


17. “Fighting for the Fortgotten Middle Class” « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - February 22, 2012

[…] recent Irish Times Series on the Middle Classes prompted a number of posts on the issue. “Riddle me this: The squeezed ‘middle earners’” and “More on the ‘Middle Class’…” Seems its a tried and trusted slogan.. From […]


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