The Middle Class Is Doing Just Fine, Thank You

John Stossel says the middle class is thriving despite downturn. Agree?

ByABC News
March 11, 2009, 9:40 AM

March 11, 2009— -- There's no doubt that the current recession is taking a heavy toll. Last month, the number of unemployed reached 12.5 million, an increase of 851,000 since December.

President Obama has said that "the middle class is struggling." Turn on the TV, and you'll hear people like cable news host Lou Dobbs say, "Our middle class may be on the verge of collapse."

Social commentator and best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich agrees. "It used to be that you could expect to get a job after college, rise in that job, maybe switch jobs at some point and then retire with a generous pension," she said. "Now, it's a very bumpy road with many gaps in between."

In her book "Nickel and Dimed," Ehrenreich went undercover to work as a nursing home aide, a Wal-Mart associate and took on other low-wage jobs to see if she could make ends meet.

She said she struggled to pay her bills and live comfortably. If you are poor, she said, and you want to move up the income ladder, in her experience, America doesn't "offer as much upward mobility as we think it does. That's a myth."

But is she right? Can only the rich make it in America? Not everyone agrees.

"I wanted to discover for myself if the 'American Dream' is still alive," said Adam Shepard, author of "Scratch Beginnings," a book he wrote after reading Ehrenreich's book in college.

Shepard, now 26, picked a city out of a hat -- Charleston, S.C. He went there with $25 in his pocket. How far could he get if he didn't tell anyone about his college degree?

"I arrived, and right away I figured I needed to get into a homeless shelter," Shepard said.

He lived in a shelter for two months. Then he got a job with a moving company, making $8 an hour. Soon he'd saved enough to buy a used truck. And within a few months he had an apartment. After one year, he had $5,500 and a car. How?

"I was able to do it because I made sacrifices," Shepard said.

Despite Ehrenreich's claim that income mobility is a myth, Shepard succeeded from humble beginnings.