The middle is missing in both our economy and in our politics. One is linked to the other and that is the problem. Both must be restored to correct the changes that have occurred over the past 30+ years. The middle class must be revived in an economy polarized between the rich and the poor, the 1% and the 99%. The polarization between the Right and the Left, Democrat and Republican, must also be lessened so that compromise is again possible. Without a vibrant middle class and political compromise, our democracy will fail. It is showing signs of failing now.
Outsourcing and offshoring jobs lead to a temporary increase in profits which finds approval on Wall Street. Over a period of years, outsourcing and offshoring destroy the middle class and reduce the number of customers who can afford American-made products. As the middle class shrivels away, we are left with the rich and the relatively poor, the 1% and the 99%, and that leads to political polarization. And political polarization leads to government policies favoring the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.
My solution to the problem is twofold: much higher taxes on the 1% and government policies discouraging outsourcing and offshoring. It is current government policies which have encouraged the outsourcing and offshoring of jobs that have decimated the middle class and led to our current polarized politics. If current government policies have done that, they can and must be reversed. Confiscatory tax levels for the 1% will dampen their desire to monopolize the fruits of the economy. Some might even desire to emulate Gérard Depardieu of France and seek Russian citizenship to escape high taxes. Let them.
speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We must fight was the title of an email message I just received from Paul Ryan. In that message, he says, “We believe that on November 6th, America will rise to the occasion. Americans will fix what needs fixing. They will end four years of false steps, and choose a new path leading to more jobs and a stronger middle class.”
If the American people fix what needs fixing, we will vote the GOP out of office in the House and Senate and thus end their four years of obstruction.
In the days and months ahead as the lame duck Congress and then the new Congress debate measures to grow the economy and shrink the national debt, I recommend measuring progress by how the measures, proposed or enacted, will affect the middle class. It was Justice of the Supreme Court Louis Brandeis who said that you can have democracy or great wealth concentrated in a few hands, but not both at the same time. I support democracy, and I will support all measures that strengthen the middle class and decrease the concentration of great wealth.
A rally of the trade union UNISON in Oxford during a strike on March 28, 2006, with members carrying picket signs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Now I am seeing some posts saying that unions were necessary in the past, but they aren’t necessary now. What has changed? In the past, unions gave workersbargaining power in the work place to ensure good treatment and a larger share in the fruits of their labor. Unions helped make workplaces safer and reduced the hours in the workweek. Unions helped millions attain middle-class status, and a healthy middle-class is essential to preserving our democracy.
What has changed that makes unions unnecessary? Is the middle-class expanding or shrinking? It is shrinking rapidly.
Is the workweek growing or shrinking? It is growing as Americans work longer hours at one or more jobs to try to make ends meet.
Is workplace safety and food and drug safety increasing or diminishing? They are diminishing as the GOP deregulates and cuts funding for the regulators still in business.
Do workers receive some of the results of increasing productivity? For the past 30 years, workers’ incomes have stagnated while the results of productivity gains have gone to the people at the top.
How fares our democracy? With the combination of Citizens United and a stubborn GOP, our democracy is fading away. We have not yet attained third world status with the stark division of rich and poor and elections that change nothing, but we are moving closer to that status.
Bill O’Reilly at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, September 30, 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
That is the title of an op-ed appearing in today’s newspaper authored by Bill O’Reilly. In it, Bill talks about growing up poor and then working his way up the economic ladder when most Americans were middle class. Bill, you are living in the past. The middle class in America is disappearing fast and we need a vibrant middle class to preserve our democracy. You talk about switching employers if you weren’t satisfied with your job. That’s not possible for most people in most lines of work. Before I was encouraged to retire, I worked at the local hospital as an x-ray tech. Although some doctors employ x-ray techs, jobs outside the hospital are scarce and its costs real money to move in the hopes of finding a job elsewhere. That is doubly and tripley true in today’s economy.
When you were growing up, the rich paid a much higher rate of taxation and still many prospered. Your dad and most Americans were willing to see others do well because they knew that hard work was rewarded in America. That is no longer true for many Americans. In some industries, only part-time work at low wages with no benefits is all that is available. If many of us including Occupy Wall Street are upset because the 1% are gaming the system, they are right and the 1% are gaming the system and destroying our democracy at the same time. Bill, open your eyes and look around you. It’s a different world from when you and I grew up.