Many have said the middle class is the future. It's where the American dream is born and thrives.
But this recession has wreaked havoc on the middle class - and could be sending it the way of the dinosaurs. According to a report from the New America Foundation, middle class jobs are vanishing. Those jobs, 30 years ago, made up more than half of the income in the U.S. now it's closer to 40 %.
Lower income jobs are now taking up more than 40% of the economy, and growing. These days even a college degree won't keep you in the middle class - 17 million college grads are doing jobs that don't require the education or skills level.
That's if people can even find jobs. The stubbornly high unemployment rate is taking its biggest toll on the middle class. The report points out that at the current rate of job creation, it will take until 2018 for the employment picture to stabilize.
As of today, 8.5 million people are currently getting unemployment insurance and over 40 million receive food stamps. And, forget what Wall Street and the Federal Reserve are saying about inflation - it's happening and it's certainly making a bad situation worse.
Consumer prices, including food and energy, are up nearly 3% over the past year. But wages are up only about 1.5%. If people can't afford to feed their family or put gas in their car, they aren't going to stay in the middle class for long.
In fact back in 1980, wages made up 60% of one's personal income. As we've reported in the past, today it's only about half.
More than 18% of our income in 2010 came from a government program. That's a big difference from the less than 12% three decades ago. The middle class is the bread and butter of our country, and the fact that many have struggled for years to find a decent paying job and keep up with the cost of living is a sobering thought.
We can't let this group disappear -- too much wealth at the top and too little at the bottom would throw our entire economy out of whack, most likely irreparably.
Gerri Willis is the host of "The Willis Report" (6 & 9PM/ET), a primetime program that covers the leading financial and political stories of the day and their impact on consumers. Click here to see more from Gerri Willis.