War on the Middle Class.
(ThyBlackMan.com) Recently, I read a New York Times article written by David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy. In that piece, it was revealed that the United States of America no longer boasts the most affluent middle class in the world. For many years – for many decades, in fact – America was numero uno in that category. That distinction now belongs to Canada; our neighbor to the north. Wars have casualties. The same is true of the war currently being waged upon middle class Americans.
This war wasn’t formally declared by Congress; but it has been waged against the middle class, the working poor, the young, and the elderly since the late 1970s.
This war is very real. It can easily be measured empirically and statistically. The effects have negatively impacted Americans professionally, financially, socially, educationally, relationally, politically, and perhaps even spiritually. This war is being fought on several separate fronts.
One front of this not-so-silent war against the middle class is the demonization and decimation of organized labor in America. I find these developments especially insidious because historically, labor unions were the best friends most American workers ever had. Collective bargaining by labor unions were directly responsible for safe working conditions, benefits packages, fair wages, paid vacations, sick leave, 5-day work weeks, retirement pensions, health care options, and immigrant rights. Labor unions are the reason your 7-year old child or grandchild isn’t working in a coal mine or a chicken processing plant somewhere. Labor unions and the Republican Party used to mutually respect one another; but that was a long, long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far, far away. Republicans tend to treat labor unions with open content nowadays. The GOP proclaims that deregulation and an absolute free-market system devoid of oversight or reasonable taxation will float all boats. Wrong… and false.
Another front of the not-so-secret war on the middle class is the assault on education by the right. The U.S. of A. used to have the best educational system in the world. Currently, this great nation’s education is ranked 27th globally. You read that right – 27th. You won’t hear that talked about on the news. You won’t hear many politicians running for public office cite that as a bullet point from their platform. It’s outrageous. In what universe can states repeatedly slash funding from their educational budgets and expect higher standardized test scores? How is building prisons left and right while closing schools left and right going to produce smarter, better technologically-prepared students and workers in America? No common core, no common sense. More education should lead to well-paying jobs. Enough well-paying jobs should mean a vibrant economy and the reduction of our national deficit. Our government should be making it easier for our citizens – regardless of their age – to go to college or to technical school to compete for those jobs; not harder.
Perhaps the most crushing front of the unrelenting war on the middle class is the utter lack of policy. True leadership is a call to service. Where I’m from, we elect our representatives to lead, to be accountable to their constituents, and to faithfully work to provide solutions to America’s problems. We don’t elect them to say no to everything, to actively avoid governing, or to build virtual monuments to their own self-righteousness and compromise phobia. Congress is consistent.
It has repeatedly failed middle class Americans through destructive stances such as the failure to reinstate emergency unemployment benefits, voting down the $10.10/hour minimum wage, refusing to even consider a legitimate living wage, denying Medicaid expansion in red states for purely political reasons, cutting tens of billions of dollars from the food stamp program, the perpetual kicking of meaningful immigration reform legislation down the road, and so on and so on. Too many leaders on the right are proud of their ineptitude and indifference towards the middle class and the working poor. If they have to resort to inferring that people of color are poor by choice – or just lazy – so be it. Meanwhile, too many leaders on the left have capitulated to those who choose regress over progress.
American comedians have long joked about what life must be like in Canada. They referenced all the hockey one can stand to watch – and the ability to safely leave many front doors unlocked. Guess who’s laughing now? Canadians.
Europe isn’t perfect, but it offers workers five weeks of vacation, comprehensive health benefits, and subsidized childcare. The US offers none of those things.
History is filled with the remnants of civilizations which underestimated the great importance of a robust middle class. Wars have casualties. Politicos who willfully wage war against any segment of the American people do so at their own peril. The middle class will be heard. Wait and see.
Staff Writer; Arthur L. Jones, III
This talented brother is a local Minister, weekly featured Democratic Op-Ed columnist, non-profit advisor, and sees the Braves winning it all this fall. Rev. Jones welcomes your comments! Please email him directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.