We were a nation that was the strongest in the world because it had the largest and strongest middle class and therefore no class warfare leading to violence. We were a nation that declared war on poverty in 1965 and within fifteen years had reduced the number of children living in poverty by half. We were a nation that measured its middle class in three sub-classes: upper, middle and lower. We have become a nation of the poor (including working poor) and the rich (including super rich). There is now a smaller middle class that struggles to send their children to college and keep up with the Joneses in such a way that many have drifted into the working poor. They work and earn a salary so they don’t qualify for the revised social safety net programs that the Republicans in the past quarter century have left in place. But their wages which did not increase in real dollars in those same years are insufficient to make ends meet.
Now the radical right wing tea party Republicans in the name of Hooverian individualism would create a two class society of the super rich and everyone else. They would voucherize Medicare - a successful national health insurance policy for the elderly. They would privatize social security so our senior citizens would be dependent totally upon 401K’s and other private pensions (with public employee pensions further restricted and private pensions unregulated). They would in effect pulverize the poor whose numbers would increase and we would surrender in the war against poverty condemning generations of young people yet unborn to the lowly peasant like status that was their lot in the 19th century world. The radical right wing tea party republican ideas would minimize further the size of the middle class. I cannot predict whether we’re looking at ultimately a 10% middle class but likely not larger. And that middle class would really be working poor holding their heads above water. They would be trapped in houses if they were lucky enough to own them - trapped because there would be no buyers and the dollars they could get for those properties would be insufficient for them to buy anything else. So we can expect a poor and a middle class of renters. Of course that’s fine by the right wing radical tea party republicans who represent the corporate landlords.
The liberal progressive idea was to lift the poor (like boats) as the tide of prosperity rose. Even the great conservative President of the twentieth century Ronald Reagan, a child of the lower middle class, saw that when he introduced the earned income credit which gave money to the working poor to help them maintain a lower middle class life style. The consensus reached in America by the 1980's was that the government would provide health insurance and social security and disability insurance and unemployment insurance and the working people of America would contribute into those programs from their paychecks in some cases matched by their employers. Now that thoughtful and successful approach, which also allowed the reach to invest and make money (they’ve certainly done well in the past quarter century) is under attack by a bevy of right wing fanatics who spout outmoded clichés from Adam Smith (18th century) and Herbert Hoover and advocate the long discredited “trickle down theory”.
America veered off the right track toward the future when the republican dominated Supreme Court helped George Bush steal the Presidential election in 2000 (remember by the way he was not the choice of the American voters). And now they cry that we are on the wrong track. Yet their approach since President Obama was elected is better we should crash and jump the track than we should resume our journey toward a land of progress. And while most of their leaders have benefited personally from federal government programs and largesse now they would balance the federal budgets on the backs of those who still need those programs.
The poor may always be with us. But so will there be those who believe that it is the obligation of others in society to feed the hungry, cloth the naked and tend the sick. And there will be those who strive to build an America where the top 5% are balanced by a bottom 5% with the 90% in between in a successful middle class, assisted when assistance is needed, insured when insurance is needed.
The Republicans call for a second great American century. Let it be a century that restores the middle class and rebuilds an America for all. Not a second century where the few enjoy the luxuries and live off the labor of the many.
30 August 2012