The decline of the middle class is worrisome - Tucson Local Media: Columns

The decline of the middle class is worrisome

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Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 4:00 am

During every election, candidates claim they are running to help the middle class, improve their lives and decrease poverty. However, once elected, these candidates turned lawmakers show how they have short memories as they fight over what privileges to keep for the rich, and the fine print of approved laws and policy say nothing about that middle class they say is so important to our society, to our shaky economy.

Instead of campaign promises and television talking points, I would like to see all of them stop talking and start acting.

The recent controversy over avoiding the fiscal cliff is another example of how the middle class doesn’t matter once actual work needs to get done. Republicans are obsessed with not raising taxes for the rich, even if it’s at the expense of the middle class and poor.

Rather than looking at the bottom line, Republicans are choosing to continue their fight against any plan introduced by our Democratic President Barack Obama. Love him or hate him, at the end of the day he has been elected for another four years, and continuing the bickering and nonsense of the past four years will accomplish nothing.

While Washington continues to act like children, the real numbers are what worry the actual middle class families who are just working to survive.

Hard numbers point to a continuing middle-class decline. According to an August 2012 Pew Research Center report, only half of American households are middle-income, down from 61 percent in the 1970s. In addition, median middle-class income decreased by five percent in the last decade, while total wealth dropped 28 percent. According to the Economic Policy Institute, households in the wealthiest one percent of the U.S. population now have 288 times the amount of wealth of the average middle-class American family.

More and more middle-income families are turning to government programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance. According to a recent Senate Budget Committee Report, “Among the major means tested welfare programs, since 2000, Medicaid has increased from 34 million people to 54 million in 2011 and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) from 17 million to 45 million in 2011. Spending on food stamps alone is projected to reach $800 billion over the next decade.”

While Republican leadership argues against tax increases for the rich, they also advocate for continued cuts to social services such as food stamps and Medicaid. Both options hurt the middle class. If you want these programs to decrease, then decrease the number of people needing to use it. You’ll always have the freeloaders, but there are plenty using the benefits because they have been forced to.

While the debate over avoiding the fiscal cliff continues, one has to realize this is just the first of many battles that will continue to show a broken system of lawmakers who are too busy fighting each other, protecting party lines and forgetting that they are there to serve all people, including the middle class that they love so dearly during election season.

While both sides of the debate continue to lay blame, all of them fail to realize that the continued decline of the middle class is because of their inability to lead.

—Thelma Grimes

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Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • John J Flanagan posted at 8:42 pm on Wed, Dec 26, 2012.

    John J Flanagan Posts: 33

    The Republican position on the fiscal cliff issue is not being correctly presented in this article. It is easy to accept the talking points of the media and paint Republicans as being out to protect the rich at the expense of the middle class and poor. Many in the media are ardent Obama supporters and registered Democrats whose sympathies lie with their preferred party of choice. The result is a lack of truth, balance, fairness, and analysis.
    Obama, who claims to be for the middle class, has policies that will hurt the economy and erode the middle class even more than those of the Republicans. Obama has created a class struggle idea to divide us as a nation. It is predictable because, anyone who would care to understand his motives, will realize how he is a socialist through and through.
    The media and Democrats love to paint the Republicans as exclusively wealthy people, yet the main body of Republicans are statistically middle class earners between 40-100K. Those in the higher earning groups exist in the Republican party, however, let us not forget the limousine liberals, the Kennedy's, Kerry's, Hollywood moguls, entertainment celebrities, rich left wing organizations, wealthy non profits who benefit by the Democratic party's system of cronyism and rewards. Chicago politics, at its corrupt best, is very typical of the Obama administration, an admission most Democrats will not admit.
    If the nation goes over the fiscal cliff, it is because Obama is unwilling to bargain and compromise over needed reductions distributed over a range of areas. The Republicans are attempting to hold the line on spending, while raising revenues sensibly. Attacking the so called rich and raising their taxes more than others is to simply make a political statement, which Obama desires to do.
    In conclusion, how I wish there could be more media attention to detail, analysis, and fairness in evaluating our political life. Instead, we readers see the same dribble, the Democratic talking points, being presented as truth. If, as Thelma suggests, the middle class is in a very bad condition, then we must look to our president and his party as the primary obstacle. Our president is not a leader. He is a divider in chief and worthy of much of the blame for our current crisis.


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