On the April issue:

Middle-Class Matters

To the Editor:
Christine Rosen’s “The Elite War on the Middle Class—And How to End It” is one of the most important articles I have read in a long time (April). It provides keen insights into how Americans have arrived at the current predicament in which we find ourselves. It also provides some thoughtful suggestions for how we can start to get out of it.

I am, however, sometimes confused by what we mean by “middle class.” In one place, Rosen describes the middle class as “elite-adjacent.” She also describes the middle class as denoting “white-collar professionals, small-business owners, and mid-level managers.” But sometimes it seems that “middle class” refers to some members of the working class—carpenters, electricians, and plumbers perhaps. Maybe part of the explanation lies in the splitting apart of the middle class. I’m thinking here of Charles Murray’s Coming Apart. Doctors, lawyers, and engineers used to be part of the broad middle class and shared a common culture with working-class people. This is why there was such a broad majority of shared values in the past. Today doctors, lawyers, and engineers are all married to their own kind and, with their combined incomes, are very affluent.

Additionally, there is a great divide today between the college- and non-college-educated. This is sharpest with respect to those with advanced and professional degrees in the current elite.

So, is the middle class those who work with their hands, small-business owners and middle-management types (who probably hold college degrees today), or white-collar professionals? The coming apart of this once broad middle class, the divide along educational lines, explains much of our current dilemma.

Thanks again for this thought-provoking article.
Michael Arsers
Chicago, Illinois

To the Editor:
Christine Rosen’s article correctly concentrates mainly on the middle-class issues regarding education. The war on the middle class, however, is far larger than her article portrays. There are, for example, the effects on the small-business owners and the self-employed. The impact of the higher minimum wage, for instance, will force shopkeepers and small-business entrepreneurs to hire fewer people. The minimum wage was supposed to be a starting point for teens and younger people to learn important skills and develop personal attributes that would enhance their growth and experiences for the future. It was supposed to be aspirational for those who would move on to higher-paying careers, and educational for those who wanted different experiences.

The tax code is a burden on the middle class because many taxpayers do not qualify for those tax credits afforded to the lowest wage earners, the poor, and the wealthy. The blame falls mainly on Congress. Too many rules and regulations are now instituted via executive orders or administrative pronouncements from unelected bureaucrats. The negative effects on the middle class can be seen with the migrations from New York, California, and Illinois to other more affordable states.

Perhaps Rosen’s list of solutions could include middle-class support for two-year colleges that concentrate on jobs and careers for those not opting to attend a four-year institution, and changes to the tax code to encourage savings and investments. While elected officials mostly pay lip service to the middle class, rarely does anything Congress or the states do have a beneficial and long-lasting effect. The middle class makes this country work. I am worried for the future for this vital and unique American population.
Leonard Steinberg
West Windsor, New Jersey

Christine Rosen writes:
Michael Arsers is not alone in struggling with a workable definition of “middle class.” I encountered the same challenge when writing the piece. I found helpful the broad outlines sketched by the Pew Research Center: Researchers found “about half of U.S. adults (52%) lived in middle-income households in 2018,” according to an analysis they performed using government data. That status, however, was dependent on location; middle class in Memphis is not the same as middle class in Manhattan. It also factored in household size, marital status, educational level, and other variables. To be middle class in Jackson, Tennessee, requires a household income of $39,300. By contrast, to be middle class in the San Francisco–Oakland, California, area requires an income of $63,800. I appreciate that Mr. Arsers notes the growing divide among the college- and non-college-educated; the former control many of our nation’s cultural and political institutions, and their values are reflected in what those institutions produce and the ways in which they govern. The latter include some middle-class but also lower-income Americans, many of whom work hard to try to achieve a middle-class lifestyle. The contempt that the upper class often demonstrates toward their fellow citizens, who do still make up the majority, is a major source of our nation’s polarization and cultural fragmentation.

I thank Leonard Steinberg for highlighting the concerns of business owners and the particular burden that policies such as an increased minimum wage pose to them. He highlights a long-standing conservative critique of top-down federal government “solutions” to complex problems: They often end up hurting the groups they claim to want to help and undermine free enterprise and hard work in the process. I am intrigued by his proposal for two-year colleges and would add to it more support for those who opt for work in the trades as opposed to pursuing college degrees. He is correct that the middle class makes this country work; it would be nice if our elected leaders and the nation’s elite took the time to recognize that fact. 

Postcards from the Past

To the Editor:
Carol Moskot’s article was very moving and equally well-written (“The Five Postcards,” April).  Even the title was just right: so succinct in summing up the story and its imagery. The history of her family and of the suffering brought on by the cruelties of the Holocaust are woven into a chilling and heartrending narrative. The warmth and love among the family members the narrator recalls—and her love for and care about them—make the reading bearable. What a difficult story to tell, what a difficult story to read. And yet, the memories should survive us all.
Judy Starr
Isla Morada, Florida

Carol Moskot writes:
I appreciate Judy Starr’s letter. My story began as a very personal effort to make sense and seek the truth behind the wall of silence that my grandmother Elizabeth put up around the story of her husband—my grandfather. I spent years trying to break through it, always sensing anger and sadness just below the surface. Ironically, it was my grandfather Lazslo, who broke the silence through his postcards, and those prompted me to search for the answers Elizabeth could never provide.

The postcards have been a gift. The love and tenderness revealed in Laszlo’s writings to Elizabeth have helped me redefine my relationship to my grandmother and introduced me to the grandfather I’d always longed to know. More important, the postcards gave me a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the complex machinery behind the Holocaust in Hungary.

Owens Exposed

To the Editor:
Christine Rosen did an excellent job pointing out the many degeneracies of Candace Owens, and I thank her for elucidating Owen’s status as a grifter (“The Hateful Candace Owens,” April). I’ve been concerned about the recent reemergence of the nationalist groyper movement as spearheaded by Owens’s “Christ is King” blasphemy.

Owens and her ilk are using their Christianity as a bludgeon against Jews, which allows anti-Semites who are not even Christian, such as Andrew Tate, to parrot their verbiage.

Yes, Christianity is a proselytizing religion. But if you go to the virtual doorstep of Jews and continually proclaim “Christ is King” while also using it as an argument to validate your viewpoints, you’re using your religion as a cudgel. And when you do that while specifically targeting Jews, you might as well grab a tiki torch and head to Charlottesville.

Additionally, Owens and Tucker Carlson are populists, not conservatives. Their rhetoric and misunderstanding of the American dream make them more akin to Bernie Sanders, not Ben Shapiro. The Am-erican dream is to reject victimhood status, tell the government, “Don’t help me, I can help myself,” and to overcome every obstacle in the way.

That reveals the danger of right-wing populism versus conservatism. Populism wants the government to swoop in and fix issues, and if they don’t get fixed, then there must be some cabal holding Americans down. Those on the right who promulgate such ideas invariably end up doing two things: playing the victim and heading full speed into anti-Semitism.

Why? Because they love conspiracy theories, and Jew-hatred is the oldest conspiracy theory of them all.
Jake Donnelly
Swampscott, Massachusetts

To the Editor:
I enjoyed, and agree with, Christine Rosen’s column on Candace Owens. Even when she has expressed an opinion with which I agree, she has always tagged on a grievance factor. In fact, “grievance” is the word that first comes to mind when I hear about Candace Owens. She has brought to the conservative side the very thing that we most detest from the left. She also funnels her commentary into her own personal sense of persecution. Owens posted, “I’m finally free,” after her announced separation from the Daily Wire. Free from what? People can think what they like about the Daily Wire, but I can’t imagine how working there would constitute an actual oppression.

She does seem to know what to say to work herself into people’s good graces or to appeal to their sense of injustice. Whether or not this is calculating or subconscious, she doesn’t contribute to a long-term harmonious workplace. To say the least.
Marlene Stemme
Greenville, South Carolina

Christine Rosen writes:
Jack Donnelly is correct to distinguish between populists and conservatives, something many journalists fail to do in their reporting. He is also spot-on in noting the distinction between the beliefs of Christians and the “Christ is King” contingent. The latter, including Candace Owens, use their faith as a bludgeon and as a way to signal their anti-Semitism. Today, it is common for some people on the right immediately to pivot and proclaim victimhood when critics point out their noxious views and behavior, a trick Owens perfected during her tenure at the Daily Wire.

Likewise, Marlene Stemme helpfully notes that, even before she dove headfirst into anti-Semitic ranting, Owens’s brand was built on grievance, which until recently was a hallmark of a left-wing victim culture and sensibility. A healthy conservatism does not disregard victims (such as the millions of people who suffered under Communist regimes), but it has usually rejected the hyper-individualistic effort to valorize victimhood. The fact that so many people, even on the right, now find victimhood appealing is not a positive development in our culture.

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