The recent protests in Wisconsin are a symptom of a much larger problem in America. Namely, attacking the middle class under the guise of deficit reduction. We saw it on the national level in the stubborn insistence by certain individuals to preserve the tax cuts for the richest 5 percent of Americans. Or how about the Supreme Court decision to allow corporations to donate seemingly limitless funds to political campaigns that favor their interests? Then of the course there is the never ending battle against organized labor and public government employees. Not only are these deceptive attacks bad for the economy and the budget in the long term, but they are contrary to the beliefs and values this country was founded on.
The idea that tax cuts for the richest Americans are good for the middle class, seems to be a stretch at best. According to the tax foundation, in 1963 the top tax rate in this country was 90 percent. Today its 35 percent. Think about that. There was a time when the richest American’s paid taxes to the tune of 9/10 of their income. Now its below half. I don’t know about you, but I think there was a great deal of economic prosperity in this country prior to 1963, despite the the taxes the rich paid. So why should that be different now? If anyone should be helping pay down this massive deficit, its the rich. Not the middle class, who are the life blood to any good society. Or maybe I’m wrong and its the corporate interests we should be concerned about.
Ask any average person what they feel is the problem with politics and you’ll probably hear something along the lines of “corruption, greed, etc.” So why then did the Supreme Court, make a decision to allow corporations to use their considerable financial advantage to influence political elections? Maybe it has something to do with the continued efforts to give more influence to those with money. Meanwhile, the middle class’s and the poor’s voices are overrun by the vast amount of money pouring into these elections. For many, as long as their jobs are safe, they don’t want to bother with the “foolish” decisions of their elected officials.
Sadly, the attacks go directly after the jobs of many middle class employees and their rights. As is the case in Wisconsin, there has been a concerted effort to eliminate organized labor by many within the state governments of this country. While unions may not be perfect, they serve as the last line of defense between the “cost saving” efforts of private corporations and (as is the case in the Wisconsin scenario) politicians with an ax to grind (see Scott Walker). Similarly, the efforts to balance the budget on the backs of our public sector employees is hurting the last bastion of middle class security in our society. Going after these people and their jobs does little to solve the deficit, and only hurts the effectiveness of our government as a whole. Sadly, many of those who propose attacking the unions and public employees are answering to those who would directly benefit from a diminished middle class.
The middle class has been under fire by those seeking to increase the wage inequality in our country for years. While difficult, it is not impossible to reverse this trend. It starts with responsible stewardship by those who control the wealth in this country. They must be willing to make moderate sacrifices both in the amount of taxes they pay and the sort of policies they support. Additionally, we as a collective people must stand up and tell our elected officials we will not support policies that continue this widening income disparity. To do that, we must make our voices heard during every election, no matter how disenfranchised we feel. A silent majority will always lose to a powerful, loud minority.
A strong middle class is the key to the future.