When Democrats talk about middle class Americans, they almost inevitably use them as a cudgel to attack the rich. On the other hand, bizarrely, Republicans seem to spend much more time defending the rich from attacks by the Left than talking about what they’re going to do to help the middle class.
That’s unfortunate because middle class Americans are the backbone of the country; yet their interests always seem to take a backseat to those of the wealthy, the poor and the naked self-interest of BOTH political parties. There’s nothing wrong with giving the poor a hand-up or making sure that the rich are treated fairly, but looking after the interests of America’s middle class should be priority #1 for both parties.
Instead of treating the interests of the middle class as a star for both parties to follow to take this country into the future, they’ve been getting screwed over.
1) Obamacare: The Affordable Care Act was portrayed as a panacea that benefits everyone, but what it actually does is punch middle class Americans in the teeth in order to help people with pre-existing conditions who didn’t already have insurance. At this point, everyone knows Barack Obama lied when he said you could keep your doctor. People also know he lied when he said you could keep your insurance. Millions of middle class small business owners have already lost their insurance and tens of millions of Americans will lose their insurance because of the employer mandate. However, the most devastating lie to the middle class was Obama’s false claim that the ACA would save the average family of four $2,500 a year in premiums. Instead, premiums skyrocketed by as much as 78% for some groups and there were “$643 billion in new taxes, penalties and fees” to cover the $50,000 a head it’s costing Americans to pay for each person who gets on Obamacare. If you are a middle class American whose salary stayed the same, chances are health care costs alone have made you feel as if you’re being dragged backward.
2) Soaring College Prices: Even though median household income has declined ACROSS THE BOARD for Americans in all income groups since 2000, the price of a college education rose at 7.45% per year from 1978 to 2011. Parents are digging into their savings and their kids are coming out of school deeply in debt. The average student loan debt in 2013 was $29,400. Where’s the push by either party for more rigorous work schedules for professors at public universities, reductions in their inflated salaries or a drawback on the administrative bloat? The middle class is drowning in debt to put their kids through school and nobody seems to care.
3) Trade policies: Trade is an extremely complex subject. For example, if you want to know the REAL reason we are developing more incredibly wealthy Americans like Bill Gates while more middle class Americans are falling behind, trade has a lot to do with it. On the one hand, because of the ease of foreign trade in the modern era, a product like Microsoft Windows is no longer just something for Americans. It can now be easily sold all over the world and that helps a few people at the top get extremely rich. On the other hand, because of the effective use of shipping containers (which only started happening about 50 years ago), the rise of computers and feasibility of instant communications, a lot of jobs that had to be done locally have moved overseas. You can now hire someone in India who’s educated, speaks English and will work for $4 an hour to do the same job you would need to pay an American $20 to do in many parts of the country. That’s the inevitable part of things that’s difficult to do anything about. The world has changed and we have to deal with it as it is.
However, as a nation that has embraced free trade policies, we’ve been far too reluctant to throw our weight around to ensure that markets are opened to American products. Free trade does benefit the middle class by ensuring they have cheap goods, but far too often Americans who make competitive products are being closed out of foreign markets by protectionists while our government merely shrugs its shoulders. Meanwhile, industry after industry has closed its doors in the United States. We don’t make radios and TVs here anymore. No cell phones are made here. Over 42,000 factories have closed since 2001. The villain isn’t free trade so much as politicians who aren’t willing to DEMAND that other countries give our businesses staffed by middle class workers the same opportunity to sell our products overseas as we give other nations.
4) Immigration And Illegal Immigration: Illegal immigration mainly hurts poor Americans who lose out on jobs to illegals who can undercut them on salary because they don’t have to pay healthcare and car insurance and can cheat on their taxes with impunity. However, there are also middle class Americans losing jobs and seeing their wages driven down because they have to compete with foreigners who don’t have the same expenses they do because they’re above the law.
However, legal immigration is also problematic as well. That doesn’t mean immigration is bad. To the contrary, immigration is good for the country and immigrants make a tremendous contribution. However, water is also good for you a glass at a time, but it can also wipe you out in a flood. We have a flood of immigration in this country and the middle class is suffering because of it. A report from the Center of Immigration Studies lays out how bad it has gotten.
Government data show that since 2000 all of the net gain in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal). This is remarkable given that native-born Americans accounted for two-thirds of the growth in the total working-age population. Though there has been some recovery from the Great Recession, there were still fewer working-age natives holding a job in the first quarter of 2014 than in 2000, while the number of immigrants with a job was 5.7 million above the 2000 level.
The results are easy to see, but the “why” is harder to fathom. Are immigrants displacing younger Americans from the work force? Is someone who’s newly arrived in the country willing to work cheaper than a native-born American in a high profile job? Are American minorities losing out?
We don’t know for sure, but what we do know is that the current level of immigration we have is hurting the middle class. Would there be anything wrong with slowing down the number of immigrants coming here for awhile to try to help the people who are already here? If either party put the middle class first, it would have already been done.
5) The Debt: The higher our debt goes, the more money the Federal Reserve is going to print in order to make it easier for us to pay off our debt. The more money the Fed prints, the more inflation we’re going to ultimately have. The more inflation we have, the less the money that middle class Americans have saved over a lifetime is going to be worth. That’s a big deal, because there is absolutely no chance – none, zero, nada – that Medicare and Social Security are going to continue to survive in their current form.
The total present value of payments expected under Social Security and Medicare beyond what is expected to be collected under current tax laws is about $100 trillion. One way to put that amount of money in context is to note that it is about twice the amount of all the net private assets that exist in America today….the best back-of-envelope estimate is that meeting this unfunded portion of our Social Security and Medicare commitments would require roughly an immediate 80 percent increase in federal income taxes, sustained forever.
Add to that the fact the Democrats are eyeing pension funds and Obama is already floating the idea of a wealth tax. So, what happens to middle class Americans when the value of money they’ve saved is dramatically eroded because of inflation, Social Security and Medicare go bust or at best, limp along, taxes go through the roof and the government is scooping money out of pensions and bank accounts to pay off our debt? The poor will still be poor. The richest Americans will move somewhere else. The middle class will be the ones crushed like a raccoon under the wheels of a semi-truck. That’s where we’re headed and by the time we’re done, there will be people hoping they die before we run out of money.