Here’s a term Americans hear endlessly during election seasons: middle class.
Those vying for political office bloviate continuously about protecting the middle class, expanding the middle class and empowering the middle class. After all, America’s middle class — the carpenters, plumbers, bank tellers, steelworkers, used car salesmen and farmers — represent the economic lifeblood of the Nation.
Those Americans who toil to achieve the picket-fence American dream vote and get politicians in office, yet they matter very little to most politicians once the ballots have been counted. The lowly middle-class voters, along with their needs and dreams, are then discarded in favor of more lucrative constituents belonging to the Nation’s military-industrial-Wall Street complex.
The United States is the richest nation on the planet; but regardless of what politicians would like for Americans to believe, its middle class isn’t doing so well.
As Les Leopold recently pointed out in a Huffington Post blog:
Our middle class is falling further and further behind in comparison to the rest of the world. We keep hearing that America is number one. Well, when it comes to middle-class wealth, we’re number 27.
The most telling comparative measurement is median wealth (per adult). It describes the amount of wealth accumulated by the person precisely in the middle of the wealth distribution — fifty percent of the adult population has more wealth, while fifty percent has less. You can’t get more middle than that.
Wealth is measured by the total sum of all our assets (homes, bank accounts, stocks, bonds etc) minus our liabilities (outstanding loans and other debts). It the best indicator we have for individual and family prosperity. While the never-ending accumulation of wealth may be wrecking the planet, wealth also provides basic security, especially in a country like ours with such skimpy social programs. Wealth allows us to survive periods of economic turmoil. Wealth allows our children to go to college without incurring crippling debts, or to get help for the down-payment on their first homes. As Bill Holiday sings, “God bless the child that’s got his own.”
Leopold considers the withering American middle class a direct result of a lack of ambitious liberal social and economic programs in the United States. He argues that stronger unions, universal healthcare, free college and more regulation is the answer.
President Barack Obama echoed a similar sentiment during a speech on the economy Wednesday, saying that the Nation needs more government efforts to lessen the Nation’s wealth gap.
“This growing inequality, it’s not just morally wrong, it’s bad economics,” he said. “Because when middle-class families have less to spend, guess what? Businesses have fewer consumers. When wealth concentrates at the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy. When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther and farther apart, it undermines the very essence of America, that idea that if you work hard, you can make it here.”
But evidence abounds that liberal policy changes can’t be the answer.
The President’s very own attempt to provide universal healthcare has already begun to negatively affect the Nation’s economy — and especially the middle-class economy.
Employment numbers from June indicated that full-time jobs are being supplanted on a massive scale as companies steady their workforce numbers ahead of the implementation of Obamacare. The labor force lost 240,000 full-time jobs in June, continuing a trend that has seen 557,000 part-time jobs in the United States outpace the comparatively paltry 130,000 new full-time positions since the first of the year.
And Detroit, a bastion of union power, has been suffering the consequences of government meddling in business affairs for decades. As politicians made profit — without the benefit of government stimulus — nearly impossible for Detroit businesses, businesses left. And with no job keeping them tied to the city, residents left. Liberal policy meant to protect workers culminated in what is likely the Nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in history.
But surely the money that the Federal government pumps into the Nation’s universities is emboldening the middle class. Well, not exactly.
Because colleges have access to too many Federal dollars and are incentivized to chase those dollars, the very programs designed to make college more accessible for Americans have an inflationary result, driving up the price of college. Meanwhile, the value of a degree falls. That is to say, colleges are spending money to chase money and the students are left behind.
So students from middle-class families are often taking on thousands of dollars in student loan debts — while their poorer peers qualify for larger Pell grant awards — in order to afford college prices that have risen artificially due to an influx of Federal dollars since the 1970s. Over the past five years, the average amount of student loan debt accrued by college students has risen by 30 percent to $23,829.
Because of a proliferation of economically damaging liberal policy initiatives such as Obamacare and pandering to unreasonable union demands, those debt-laden college grads can’t find jobs. About 48 percent of employed U.S. college graduates work jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests require less than a four-year college education.
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Regardless of how staunchly conservative or liberal one may be, there is no way to deny that the U.S. has been dominated by liberal fiscal policy for just about a century. And, more often than not, liberal fiscal policy initiatives have been gleefully accepted by a majority of Americans because of promises that they will help the middle class.
The reason the middle class in America is not doing so well has nothing to do with lack of government regulation or policy aimed at protecting this coveted segment of the American population. The reason the middle class is not doing well is that there is really no such thing as being middle-class. There’s being an American citizen who is financially comfortable and has an enjoyable work-life balance. But the only reason the term “middle class” exists is because it is a convenient way for the political power structure to promise comfort in return for economic and social freedom.