Evidently all political polling these days points to support from middle class Americans as the key to victory in 2016.
Because of that, you’re hearing President Obama and prospective Republican candidates talk all middle class all the time. For Obama, the solution appears to be taking as much from those in the middle class who actually made it to upper class status and handing it to the federal government to divvy up. For Republicans, it’s finding ways to remove impediments from middle class Americans’ ability to succeed.
Whether Obama or Republicans have real answers to what ails middle class Americans or are simply schilling for votes remains to be seen, but some things are abundantly clear.
First, what makes the United States unique and successful is the existence of a strong middle class. Without this demographic, the U.S. would be like countless other countries which are politically fragile thanks to severe disparity between rich and poor. Making certain that the middle class is strong and vibrant should be a top priority.
There is also no doubt that current policies aren’t working where the middle class is concerned. Under the Obama administration, wages are flat and middle income Americans constantly feel a financial squeeze in all aspects of everyday life whether it’s saving for retirement, sending their kids to college, or paying for health care.
A recent cover story in USA Today bears this out. The story focuses on the plight of middle income Americans as they find ways to pay for health care under Obama Care. One doctor interviewed notes the increasing number of Medicaid patients he’s seeing who are replacing a declining number of middle income patients. This latter group is reducing in numbers as they are now being forced to make serious medical decisions for financial reasons. Among this group are a number of my personal friends who are lamenting this problem. Their insurance premiums and deductibles are so high that not only do they not want to get sick for obvious reasons, but they also simply can’t afford to be sick either.
The same is true for middle class families trying to send their children to college. If you’re poor, you can apply for grants and other forms of assistance. If you’re rich, you can probably just write a check. If you’re somewhere in the middle, as a college student, you may save a little where you can and take out massive loans that you spend the first years of your career paying back.
Much discussion currently focuses on slow growth in wages particularly among middle income Americans since Obama took office. In his State of the Union address, the president’s solution to the problem appears to be taxing upper income earners and handing the money to those in the middle class through tax credits.
There is a bit of irony in all of this. Many Americans who are considered “rich” today (at least by the Obama administration) actually began their lives in the middle class. Operating under the idea that the American dream is real, they did what they could to get an education and often risked a lot to start businesses or become lawyers, doctors, and dentists.
In the old days, these people would have been lauded for this achievement. Now things are different. Instead, they are marked as “one percenters” subject to heavy taxation presumably for the greater good.
This begs the question of why anyone in the middle class should strive to achieve status in the upper class if they’ll only spend their most productive years fighting to keep what they’ve earned. It seems there is a societal benefit when middle class Americans truly believe that there is something better for them if they take chances and work hard. Until now, many of them could point to friends and relatives who’ve done just that. They certainly hoped the same for themselves.
Right now, everyone in politics, Republican and Democrat, wants to speak for the middle class. In order to truly affect positive change, however, the middle class needs someone who truly understands and represents their interests and concerns and expresses them on their behalf. Otherwise, we’ll just continue to see this middle class pandering and the result will be more of the same.