I have always considered myself a middle class, blue collar worker. I guess I have not really put a great amount of thought into social hierarchy. Really there are many layers to consider. But here is where I come from:
I started working pretty young selling papers on the streets of Eureka, then a paper route. At age 15 I went to work at Duck’s Market and then was fortunate to land a union retail clerks job at Bazar at 16. I worked at Bazar until it closed and found myself in a white collar job working as a finance officer at Transamerica. I married Robin while working in finances and Robin was a hairdresser. We were dirt broke middle class then. I quit Transamerica in 1979, and went back to school. I applied for summer work at Louisiana Pacific doing clean up in the closed stud mill. I was shocked to be hired for over $8.00 and hour. It was big bucks at the time. I moved to the Saw Mill until they were about to close. In 1980 I applied for work in the Pulp Mill, and there I am. I have been through lean times when I was laid off almost yearly in the Reagan years and really had to scrimp to get by. I did take a leave of absence from the mill and went to work for the union for a 5 year term as a union organizer. I have made as little as $7,000 a year and have topped out at $78,000 a year. But through all the different financial levels I have always considered myself middle class. Whether I have been “lower” or “upper” middle class is up to interpretation.
Let me take my argument of whether I should be part of the middle class a step further. A working family in Humboldt County should be able to buy a house. Can we agree on that? OK, in 2006 you needed a household income over $85,000 to qualify buying a median (average) priced home in Humboldt County at $349,500. Humboldt Association of Realtors My household income at that time was around $90,000, not far from the median needed to by a house. I do not consider that “upper class.” It is all relative.
The Drum Major Institute defines the US middle class as people making between $25,000 and $100,000. That seems about right to me.
The median average household income for Humboldt County is just over $40,000 as of 2008. If there is only one wage earner in that house, they need to make over $18 an hour to make that. Do you except that only 13% or less of the households can afford to buy a house? And get this, in 2000 nearly 50% of Humboldt County wage earners could buy a house!
I realize that Humboldt County has taken a terrible turn economy wise. Goods and services cost more here than most places in the US. Jobs are moving out of the area, raw materials leaving as unfinished product, tourism and small businesses taking over, and even our children being exported to make a living. Does that mean we should except a lower standard of living and economics? We should just give up and shut up? When will we stop this trend and promote sensible growth? I hope sooner than later.
I stand by my claim that I am middle class. Whether in Humboldt County or Timbuktu.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
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