What Happened to the Middle Class

I recently read the Labor Day message which President Eisenhower gave to the nation in 1959.  Here is some of what he said.

“One cannot look back over past Labor Days without a compelling awareness of the broad and constant improvement in the condition of our people, in the real wages they receive, and in the benefits they enjoy. American labor has advanced continuously to new heights of accomplishment.”

Later he adds “We recognize and protect the rights of employees to organize together and to bargain with their employers for an equitable share of the wealth they produce.”

I ask myself all the time “What happened to the middle class in America which was thriving in the 50’s and 60’s?”  Many people believe that their children will not do as well as they did.  The nation is not broke, but the money is mostly at the top.  How did things get this way?

In 1980, the nation fell in love with Ronald Reagan.  Reagan said that he had no time for the blame America first crowd.  He spirited in a renewed sense of patriotism which had taken a big hit after the debacles of Vietnam and Watergate.

Along with the renewed sense of patriotism, Reagan also ushered in other ideas.  Reagan began to oppose the unions, and the people followed his lead.  In the 1980’s union membership declined.  People believed that unions were part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Also, the people followed Reagan’s lead when he began reducing taxes.  The Reagan team told us that by lowering the taxes on the top earners, we all would benefit because they would create jobs.  As it turned out, however, this was the beginning of a great transfer of wealth from the middle class to the rich.  This trickle down approach has been the one uniting principle for the Republicans since the time of Reagan.

In addition to the Reagan tax cuts there were the capital gains tax cuts under Bill Clinton, and then the disastrous Bush tax cuts which were skewed heavily to the already rich.  All of these decisions benefited the super wealthy.  Bill Clinton did raise the top rate in his first year, and the Republicans predicted a recession which never happened, because trickle down does not work.

There is another factor which decimated the middle class.  The trade deals called NAFTA and CAFTA actually did create that giant sucking sound of job losses so presciently predicted by Ross Perot.

So I guess that is the Trifecta of middle class ruin.  Demonize unions.  Reduce taxes predominantly on the wealthy.  Engage in trade deals which results in the loss of good paying middle class jobs.

But you know what?  We are still America.  We have the vote.  I am sharing these ideas with you because I want America to be the best it can be.  I want our children to get college educations without going into debt.  I want every baby who comes home from the hospital to be covered by medical care.  I want people who work a forty hour week to be paid enough by their employers that they will not need to rely on food stamp assistance from the taxpayer.

I say raise the minimum wage.  Respect unions again.  Give tax incentives to companies who return jobs to the USA.  And speak up for the middle class.  The middle class is due for a raise.

Nancy Lorback

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