Saturday, February 16, 2008

Middle Ground for the Middle Class?

Those of you who are friends and family know that I am podcast fiend. One of my favorite is the PBS program NOW. NOW explores issues as they relate to democracy and how are laws are created. I've been catching up and a recent episode about middle class insecurity was broadcast on television and on the web.

The episode gave some insight into how and why voters might think past their own economic interests despite how recent government decisions have made it harder and harder for the middle class to thrive.

The more I thought about the episode the more I realized that the shift in our economic policies that came with the Reagan era, have been slowly crippling the middle class. Moreover, it is by hijacking the values of the Christian conservative base on social issues have allowed the Republican party to shift taxation and trade laws to benefit the richest of our country. But it is important not to demonize the conservatives voters and and politicians the created this situation. In fact, I believe these folks really believe that creating strong businesses creates a strong economy and therefore wealth for all.

But what we have seen is a time of income disparity not seen since the Great Depression. How great? More that 20% of the country's wealth is concentrated to 1% of earners. Is this something government can do anything about? Is it the government's role to decide wages? It is unAmerican to think so.

However, we have allowed over time minimum wage to stay static, we've allowed unions to become irrelevant, social security no longer covers retirement. The basic problem is it takes two incomes to support a family when it once took one. And the costs of energy, housing, food, and college education are headed upward. What can government do? The first step to me would be a tax credit for wage increases. Tax credits for granting workers flex time or time off. Americans are feeling overwhelmed with lifestyle changes and increased costs. Especially in a globalized economy, tax incentives for equipment purchases (such as those recently proposed in the stimulus package) don't help the American worker. We need to drive down the cost of healthcare and college education and give American workers the social and ecomonic mobility they enjoyed a generation ago.

No comments: