It may be time to play a dirge for the American middle class.
While many American families enjoyed rising prosperity in the decades following World War II, those wealth gains have eroded, leaving the middle-class poorer than anytime since the 1940s, according to new research from economists Emmanuel Saez of University of California, Berkeley and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics.
At the same time, the richest Americans have become richer, putting their share of wealth at the dizzying heights only seen during the era of “The Great Gatsby” and the Gilded Age of the robber barons, the researchers note. FULL ARTICLE
By Suzy Khimm
Kicking off a series of speeches on the economy, President Obama laid out a number of reforms–from raising the minimum wage to universal pre-school–that would require major legislation that no one expects to pass any time soon. But that was precisely the point: Obama strived to come across as a leader with a long-term vision for the future, criticizing Republicans for being short-sighted and petty by comparison.
Obama attempted throughout his speech to take the long view on America’s economic problems. Yes, the financial crisis was awful, but it was essentially just a setback that exacerbated the fundamental problems we’ve been facing for decades: A hollowed out middle class, growing inequality, and the loss of economic security–”a sense that your hard work would be rewarded with fair wages and benefits, the chance to buy a home, to save for retirement,” Obama said.
Fixing such structural problems will have historic impact, going well beyond the current recovery, the president continued in an address that stretched just over an hour Wednesday. “The choices that we, the people, make now will determine whether or not every American will have a fighting chance in the 21st century,” he said. “To reverse the forces that have conspired against the middle class for decades–that has to be our project.”
Obama ran through a litany of possibilities to fix the pillars of middle-class America, through more affordable education, higher wages, and more jobs. By the end, it felt more of a laundry list of ideas (universal broadband! mortgage refinancing! worker retraining!) than a legislative agenda. But the driving purpose of the speech was to contrast this vision for economic change with Republican preoccupations–spending cuts, political scandals, and the debt ceiling–and challenge them to describe their own long-term agenda.
Last night Speaker John Boehner, showed the folly of his “Plan B” and the lack of power over the House. Rather than bring the scheduled vote on his “Plan B” which raises revenue on the backs of middle-income Americans, Mr. Boehner recessed the House. “Plan B” is a blueprint for misery and suffering for 98% of Americans. Majority Leader Eric Cantor said that there would be no vote on Friday which “concludes business for the week.” This is troubling.
Congress goes home Saturday for Christmas. It looks like they plan a “Thelma and Louise” ending for the year 21012 and the 112th Congress which has the distinction of being “the worse Congress in history.” [Note. Congress will have another session before year-end.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Hedrick Smith, author of the new book Who Stole the American Dream, joined Hardball Friday to explain the hidden causes of inequality in the U.S. economy. The public, Smith said, has been led to believe that the middle class squeeze in this country has been caused by globalization, technology and market forces.
Not so, argues Smith, who points to a political/corporate power shift in the late 1970′s as the culprit of the widening wealth gap.
” There was a political rebellion. [The corporate interests] absolutely stuffed labor, they stuffed the consumer movement, they got deregulation, they got tax cuts, they got all kinds of things so the power shift tilted the policy towards business, towards the wealthy,” Smith told Chris Matthews.