Daily Archives: May 22, 2004

Quote of the Day

Tom Engelhardt on Junior’s poll-dip and Kerry’s poll-stasis:

[D]espite the multimillions spent [already by the Bush Campaign] and the copious images pixeled onto TV screens, the President’s poll numbers kept dropping, not in relation to Senator Kerry but in relation to himself. He was, it seemed, battling his own past self, and somehow he was losing.

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Waging War on the Middle Class

Over at FTT we’ve been talking about the war the rich have been using the GOP to wage on the poor but a new report from a non-partisan think-tank, The Drum Major Institute, makes it clear that, having pretty much done us in, they’re now beginning to zero in on the middle-class. In the report, titled ‘Middle-Class 2003: How Congress Voted’, the Executive Summary notes–

While the U.S. Census Bureau has no official definition of the “middle class,” conventionally it has come to represent a large swath of the American populace with incomes between approximately 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold and those of the nation’s top 5 percent income earners—roughly $25,000 to $100,000 a year.Today’s middle-class families are deeply concerned about making ends meet, affording everyday essentials, saving for the future, obtaining affordable health insurance for themselves and their families, and avoiding the bankruptcy that has become nearly epidemic–all in the face of rising unemployment and health care costs.

–and that Republican legislation over the last three years has made the position of the American middle-class distinctly shakier than it was.

• More than 92 percent of the 1.6 million Americans who filed for bankruptcy were middle class

• The cost of childcare swelled to as much as 40 percent of middle-class families’ income

• More than 40 percent of the 2.4 million newly uninsured Americans are middle class

• Average annual earnings for all Americans were down $1,400 compared to 2000

• Property taxes rose by an average of 2.8 percent in 2003, according to a survey of 108 major U.S. cities

• And, according to a national survey conducted by the Consumer Federation of America in July 2003, half of those surveyed with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000—the very definition of middle class—were “worried about their financial condition.”

As they should be. The Great Oligrach Party has so shifted the burdens of responsibility away from corporations–which are paying the lowest taxes in modern US history when they’re paying any at all–and the super-rich (the top 1%) that the middle-class is being squeezed by rising costs, rising property tax rates, and shrinking incomes. Legislation waiting in the wings includes one bill that is liable to make their situation even more untenable: the Orwellian-named ‘Responsible Lending Act (HR 833)…will significantly weaken regulations governing the lending industry to the detriment of financially strapped Americans.’ Guess which way that vote’s going to go…

Democrats have offered a number of bills that would help, including:

The College Affordability and Accountability Act of 2003 (HR 3519), awaiting a vote in the House, will help American families afford the high cost of tuition at a four-year college.

Employee Free Choice Act (S 1225), awaiting a vote in the Senate, will help American workers form, join, and assist labor unions.

Payday Borrower Protection Act of 2003 (HR 2407), awaiting a vote in the House, will protect millions of Americans from the practices of unfair and unethical payday lenders.

The Defending American Jobs Act of 2004 (HR 3888), awaiting a vote in the House, will require that American employers report on their workforce and compensation rates in the United States as well as abroad.

–but they’re all languishing in Tom DeLay’s circular file. None of them has much chance of coming up for a vote in this session–or ever, if Bush steals another election.

DMI’s main findings?

• While almost all—96 percent—of Democratic Senators received an A, fully one quarter of Republican Senators received an F for their failure to support the middle class.


• The House of Representatives, overall, did a poor job of voting with the middle class, receiving a less than acceptable grade of C. As with the Senate, however, there were great disparities: 36 percent of the House received a failing grade, while 21 percent earned an A.

• Party divisions were especially evident in the House. Overall, only Democrats voted consistently for the middle class.

• 66 percent of Republican members of Congress received an F, compared to 1 percent of their Democratic peers.

Clearly, after we Take Back the White House, the next order of business is taking back the other House. Anybody in the middle-class who thinks the Pubs are on their side needs to think again.

(Thanks to Mother Jones, whose editor concludes, ‘Thanks to this report, American voters now have the information they need to decide whether to keep their representatives — or throw them out.’ Amen. Now do it, will you please?)

At From the Trenches

Editorials

Affordable Housing in Crisis–Again

From the NY Times: House Republicans threaten Section 8 support to low-income population just as rents are skyrocketing

Employer-Based Health Coverage Doesn’t Cut It

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: House Republicans pass bill that will let employers cut worker benefits and shift more of the cost of health care onto their employees

Commentary

The Paquette Column: ‘Why Should I Apologize for Making Lots of Money?’

A self-described ‘member of a small, elite group’, the rich, defends his right to keep as much of his money as he can.

I wonder at how the mind-set of the country has changed, how the work ethic has been corrupted. When I was growing up, the only rule was that success and achievements resulted from, and were directly related to, hard work. You got back in proportion to the effort you put forth. That’s the way it has worked for me.

And one man’s answer.

Mr. Paquette believes in this model because it worked for him. And there is no doubt that many Americans with higher incomes have that money due to hard work. But it is equally, and increasingly unavoidably obvious that many others arrived at a position of higher income due to advantages they were given, rather than earned. A minimum wage janitor from a poor school district who is holding two jobs to support a family does not have the same opportunity to create international business contacts, and no amount of harder floor-mopping is going to create that opportunity.

Why are women more often living in poverty?

From the Atlanta Journal-Consitution: A conservative/liberal debate.

Con: ‘A complex socio-economic issue like this often requires multiple answers, but here the answers are far more social than economic. And most reasons can be boiled down to one: The breakdown of the family.’Lib: ‘If Shaunti’s right — if female poverty is the result of disintegrating family bonds — why is it that women earn 50 cents on the male dollar worldwide?

Class Warfare, Dammit!

Phaedrus at No Fear of Freedom looks at the gap between rising base costs like rent and stagnant wages for workers.

The American working class consists mainly of indentured servants. Oh, they’ve changed the forms so you won’t easily snap to that realization but, effectively, it still works like indentured servitude for the employer.