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?)

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