The middle class: Stuck in the middle with (and by) Obama

The middle class: Stuck in the middle with (and by) Obama

According to the RCP average, the last time the president enjoyed favorable poll ratings was on June 9, 2013 by one tenth of a point. His low point came on Dec. 4, 2013 when his favorable ratings sunk to 40.1%. Since then he has hovered around 42%. The view of the president has hardened over the past sixteen months and, given the tone of yesterday’s press conference, it’s hard to see how those numbers change in any significant manner.

And yet there was no signal that there would be a change in agenda, no change in approach, no significant change in the palace guard, and no change in the divisive rhetoric that casts honest opposition as blood enemy. There has been no admission that the people have spoken; that only occurs when he wins.

It goes deeper than that. Much of the president’s rhetoric is aimed at “helping the middle class,” yet that is where his rejection appears to be the most significant; the four blue state losses in the Governor’s mansion are direct evidence of that. Morley Winograd, a long-time Democratic activist and advisor to Vice President Al Gore wrote this:

The Democrats have committed political malpractice, they have not discussed the economy and have no real program. They are offering the middle class nothing.

The middle class appears to have awakened to the fact that their reality and the president’s rhetoric do not match up; it’s not even close.

Health care costs taken as a whole are increasing dramatically. The typical family, in the context of increasing premium costs and high deductibles, could easily be into health care costs to the tune of $20,000 before insurance company reimbursements come into the picture. The amount of cash outlay will sink all too many middle class families. In my particular case, my company’s health insurance costs has risen a compounded 41% over the past three renewals, forcing a reevaluation of just how much I can actually do for highly valued associates.

While fuel costs are going down finally, they have been exceptionally high for most of the Obama presidency. The cost reductions have nothing to do with the president’s policies and in point of fact occur despite, not because of, federal policy. Food cost increases are dramatic. Yet neither food nor fuel factor in the “official” inflation statistics.

According to economist Pavlina R. Tcherneva, from 2009 through 2012, 116% of income growth has benefited the top 1% of earners. From 2001 through 2007, 98% of income growth resided with the top 1%. That is not a formula for “helping the middle class,” nor are stagnant and in some cases declining wages as factored against inflation. All of this and more demonstrates why the middle class is not “feeling” the economic growth the president and his people hold up as a sign of policy success. The president touts months of economic growth. But the middle class on Tuesday weren’t feeling the love.

The middle class knows now that the unemployment rate is meaningless. The job participation rate is where the real numbers, are and those numbers are deplorable, just 62.7%. There are signs of economic improvement but will the middle class see any of it? Based on recent history, the answer is a resounding no.

The middle class is also coming to appreciate the burden they have shouldered. The lower 50% of earners contributes a puny 3% in federal taxes but consumes the vast majority of benefits. The 40% that sits just above the lower 50%, the middle class, contribute 38% of federal tax revenues and consumes relatively little in benefits.

Democrats, motivated by the populist instinct to attack the 1% have in fact feathered that bed to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. The middle class may be waking up to the fact that social policy doesn’t work for them, and neither does increasing the minimum wage. The only thing that provides the foundation for their aspirations is an aggressively growing economy.

Taking liberties with an old song: “Bailouts to right of me, hand-outs to the left, here I am caught in the middle with you,” you in this case being an administration that whispers sweet nothings in your middle class ear, while they pick your pocket and count on you to thank them for it.

D.E. Landreaux

D.E. Landreaux

D.E. Landreaux began writing political commentary to realize an irresistable urge to have a voice in the political process beyond the voting booth. He also blogs at YouDecidePolitics.com.


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