Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Middle Class Is Not Defined By Income Level

By Jon Street | January 8, 2013 | 10:50am EST

Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who’s accompanied by her husband, Bruce Mann, on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2012. (Cliff Owen/AP)

( – Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) says the middle class is "not a numbers issue" and "doesn't need a dollar figure" to define it.

A Boston television reporter covering Warren’s swearing-in on Thursday, Jan. 3, asked her: “When you mention middle class, what numbers are we talking in terms of income level?”

“It's not a numbers issue, Warren responded. “I know you would expect a very wonky answer from me about the percentiles, but it's not.”

Warren campaigned for the U.S. Senate as a champion of the middle class and says she comes from a “hard-working middle-class family.”

“When we strengthen education, when we make it possible for kids to go to college, then we strengthen America's middle class. That doesn't need a dollar figure,” she told the reporter from the Boston Fox News affiliate last Thursday.

The reporter followed up: “The middle class is by definition a group of people in a certain income level, but you're not willing to say that they are?”

“No, I disagree with that. It's one way to measure it,” Warren said.

“But you can't classify someone making a million dollars in the middle class?” the reporter asked again.

“Well, wait a minute,” said Warren. “I'll do it the other way. How about someone who has taught school for ten years and takes off a year to go back to graduate school and has an income of only $4,000 in the year that she's not teaching. Would you say that she fell out of the middle class? I wouldn't. So it's a whole lot of characteristics that define the middle class.”

President Obama and other Democrats have spent months urging Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax rates for the middle class only -- the middle class in this case defined as earners in the $200,000 to $250,000 range.

Warren, who was assigned to the Senate Banking Committee, is about to become the senior senator from Massachusetts, given Sen. John Kerry’s anticipated confirmation as Secretary of State.

She has promised to sign on to Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s gun control bill, saying on her website that “no one needs Rambo-style high capacity magazines to protect their family from intruders.”

And for the record, Warren took her oath of office three times: Once as part of the freshman Senate class, all of whom were sworn in together by Vice President Joe Biden. Later that same day, Biden delivered the oath to Warren alone -- something that's done at an individual senator's request. And on Saturday, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan delivered the oath to Warren at a public "re-enactment" ceremony in Boston.

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