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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Republicans Continue Assault On The Middle Class

The Bush years from 2001-2006 saw the first economic expansion in post World War II history where the middle class experienced no gain in income. In fact, many middle class folks actually saw their income decline during that time period and then of course 14 million lost their jobs. Although it was well accepted prior to 2001, the economic principle that tax cuts for the rich do not stimulate growth because wealthy people do not change spending habits as a result of a tax cut, got an exclamation point during W’s time in office.  The Bush Administration was preoccupied with cutting taxes for the wealthy and not concerned with providing opportunities for the middle class. What the 2001-2006 era showed was that the middle class does not benefit from tax breaks, even though it may sound good. Typical opportunities that help the middle class are education grants and job training. The middle class benefits from tax payer supported programs for otherwise cost prohibitive endeavors like a college education or cancer treatment for a child.  Nothing like that came out during the Bush years because the Republicans had no interest in helping the middle class. Despite that, middle class voters continued to vote for Republicans in great numbers.

In 2010, with the “shellacking” of the Democrats at the midterm polls Obama gave into Republican demands to extend tax cuts for the rich so as to not imperil tax breaks for the middle class and to acquire another 300 billion in stimulus cash. By 2010 the economic catastrophe that was the George W. Bush years was evident. Yet Republicans continued to push hard for tax cuts for the rich despite their supposive concern with the deficit and the undeniable fact that the tax cut extension would not stimulate the economy.

The Republicans in the house recently passed a bill proposing 60 billion dollars in budget cuts for 2011. The number one biggest program they want cut? Two billion dollars in federal job training.   This cut is aimed directly at the heart of a middle class still trying to recover from the 2008 crash and desperate to learn new skills to cope with a hi-tech world and the demise of jobs requiring little or no skill. It is a mystery why the Republican Party would seek to cut a program tied so closely to recovery and so necessary to permit future economic success for the middle class. Little has been made of this clear disregard for the plight of millions of Americans still suffering from the economic policies of the most recent Republican administration.

Notably, these cuts are being proposed by many new tea party members who were elected indubitably by members of the middle class. Whether it is ignorance or successful brain washing by wealthy, conservative interest groups, many middle class voters seem to think that this economic crisis is a result of government spending and excessive salaries for government workers. Never mind that during congressional hearings the heads of various banks and financial institutions already took the entire blame for the economic collapse and that the first entity of note to fall was not a state or federal agency but the Lehman Brothers trading house.

The latest attack on the middle class is occurring in state legislatures across the country where Republican Governors and legislators control the state houses. Despite the fact that unions are agreeing to contribute more to pensions and health care the Republicans want to go a step further: they want to remove the ability of the workers to collectively bargain. Essentially, they want to eliminate as much as possible the ability of the unions to organize for the purpose of asking for better pay or better benefits in the future. While nothing in the constitution guarantees a person a job, there is little debate that it is a very American thing to ask for a raise from your boss; the Governors of Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana want to take that away from firemen, cops and teachers.  Once again, neither unions or state workers caused the economic crisis- banks and financial institutions did. Why are these middle class people being punished for the wrongdoings of others while the very wealthy people in this county just got their tax cut extended for another two years?

Belt tightening is to be expected in an economic downturn and state and municipal workers are expected and have agreed to do their part. However, this Republican led effort will make it more difficult for middle class Americans to be paid a wage consistent with their skill and value to society. Teachers, firefighters and law enforcement provide essential services critical to the well being of the public. They should be allowed to ask for a raise.  In addition, these middle class people will be denied a voice in politics as unions are the only groups that permit them to be heard over the din of Billionaire funded organizations that work non-stop in an effort to undermine the political clout of 98% of the population.  It could be that this attack on that very American institution, which is the unions, will awaken the middle class to the true intentions of the Republican Party and reflect in the 2012 election.

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