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Attending the Chamber Forum Mayor’s state of Corvallis address, I was disturbed to find out that according to Corvallis' definition, I am no longer middle class. How can I be three years from retirement, college-educated, home-owning (though in Linn County since 2012), 39 years employed in Corvallis (the last 16 with Benton County) and not be counted as middle class?

It felt like a kick in the stomach. “It’s a label, don’t take it personally,” “joke’s on them, I am not low income," my ego ranted, buying into all the negative stereotypes. Then my head cleared — it’s not about me, it’s about decisions, policies and struggles too complicated to identify as a single cause.

Reasons for the "decline" of the middle class are debated loudly; but the effects, on many like me, are silently suffered. This is why I decided to share my experience; it gets real when it gets personal.

My hope for sharing is to personalize the issue that affects us all. I knew my income was not increasing and health insurance costs were rising, but I didn’t realize that I had lost my place in the middle class until confronted with the data at the Chamber Forum — what else don’t I know?

What I do know is, as a PERS employee, comments from non-PERS folks who complain about PERS payments and Gov. Brown not fixing the problem trouble me. Are they willing, like me, to give up their kicker to help pay down PERS debt?

Nancy Swain

Albany (Feb. 11)

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