In its discussion of historical middle class societies, The Economist reports, “Their members are neither rich nor poor but somewhere in-between…’Middle-class’ describes an income category but also a set of attitudes…An essential characteristic is the possession of a reasonable amount of discretionary income. Middle-class people do not live from hand to mouth, job to job, season to season, as the poor do.” Some argue that the most sensible income amount to attach to the middle class would be the median household income, of around $54,000.
In the upside-down, topsy-turvy world of jobs these days, even an advanced degree can’t protect some Americans from tumbling down the economic ladder. The conventional wisdom that more education bears fruit in the labor market gets turned on its head when it comes to unemployment. For people with masters and even doctoral degrees, long-term unemployment is especially insidious.
Over the past 5 years, the shale industry, fabricated or real reserves notwithstanding, has been a significant boon to the US economy for four main reasons: it has been the target of billions in fixed investment and CapEx spending, it has resulted in tens of thousands of high-paying jobs, its output has been a major tailwind for the US trade deficit, and has generally been a significant contributor to GDP (not to mention various Buffett-controlled or otherwise railway corporations). And perhaps, most importantly, it has become a huge buffer to the price of global oil, as the cost curve of US shale is horizontal, with a massive 10,000 kbls/day available within pennies of $85/bl.