While the presidential candidates feed them promises, America's middle-class wage earners are suffering from a decade during which their household incomes fell steadily for the first time since World War II, according to a depressing report from the Pew Research Center.
According to the report, The Lost Decade of the Middle Class, while the median household income of middle-income workers fell by 5% from 2000 to 2010, their median wealth - total assets minus debt - fell 28%, to $93,150 from $129,582.
And the Wealth Gap Grew Wider: During the same 2000-2010 period, the median household wealth of upper-income Americans actually rose by 1%, to $574,788 from $569,905. However, the median household wealth of lower-income families plummeted by 45%, to $10,151 from $18,421.
Among middle-class adults, 85% told Pew it was harder for them to maintain their standard of living now than it was ten years ago.
Bringing the Blame: Who's to blame? Of the 85% who found it harder to maintain their standard of living, 62% blamed Congress, 54% blamed the banks, 47% large corporations, 44% the George W. Bush administration, 39% foreign competition for jobs, 34% the Obama administration, and only 8% blamed the middle-class itself.
Recession and Recovery: While the government declared the Great Recession over in June 2009, most middle-class Americans didn't notice. In fact, according to the Pew survey, 62% said they were forced to reduce their household spending in 2011 simply because money was tight, compared to 53% who had to cut back in 2008.
Overall, 42% of middle-class adults said their household's financial situation was hurt by the recession, while 32% say they are in better shape, and an additional 23% said their finances had not been affected by the recession.
While the post-recession economy may be rebounding, the Pew report suggests it may take years for middle-class workers to recover.
Of those who said they are in worse financial shape, 51% said it would take them at least five years to recover, including 8% who predict they will never make up the lost ground.
Pew's research reported in The Lost Decade of the Middle Class, was based on a national survey of 2,508 adults, 49% of whom identified themselves as middle-class and 32% who identified themselves as being lower or lower-middle class.
Also See: Even in Recession, Congress' Pay Grew