The Working Middle Class need a Voice & Higher Incomes…Trump has set a precedent that a president need not go by the book & it’s OK to shake up the system. With that new path being paved bucking the establishment, the next president we elect may face less resistance, as they seek to pass constructive legislation that’s bold, innovative, feasible, populist, effective & targeted to lift up the working middle class. Let’s just make sure that next one is mentally stable & sincerely seeks to help the people more than themselves, building up that vital trust with Americans to get things done with the right policies. It’s time to quit pretending we’re in such a strong economy. It only lets the politicians off the hook for doing nothing. And Trump’s boasts are only loosely connected with reality.
Any economy where at least half the working population are struggling to make ends meet, is clearly a rigged system demanding a fix. The dignity & productivity (& pay) from/for labor must be restored to working people. If a logical way can be found to raise wages across the board, businesses won’t be put at a competitive disadvantage, plus business should improve when employees have more disposable income. Our #1 domestic challenge (other than reining in Trump’s lies & corruption) is in recapturing the American Dream for the working middle class. These valuable & clarifying excerpts are patched together from middle-class-shame-american-politics:
Shalynn Womack is 60 years old and lives with a lot of economic uncertainty. She’s one of a group, she says, that “didn’t get the life we thought being well-educated would provide.” Ms. Womack, who lives in Tennessee, is still plagued by “the sense that I must have done something terribly wrong somewhere along the way.” She said that she and her husband fight about money, scrutinize their spending and often regret the purchases they make. “Certainly, we’ve choked down a big dose of anger about this downward spiral,” she told me. Over the past few years, I have spoken to hundreds of people, like Ms. Womack, who define themselves as middle class but are seriously economically challenged. In their lives, an illness could mean bankruptcy. I talked to many people who had college degrees, were convinced they were on the right path, yet were shaken by their endless debt — from the cost of their graduate degrees, caring for an elderly parent or paying for a child’s medication. Sometimes their professions had contracted, resulting in a loss of jobs. Sometimes it was because their work had become irregular and they had no union to negotiate for them. Health care and education cost far more than they once did and wages were barely inching up. As a result, they had personal pain — and ire — that many politicians didn’t take seriously enough.
After all, what I have called the “middle precariat” vote — or what could be called the anxiety vote — gave us this president, and now it has also given us a Democratic House. It is a powerful force. Any Democrat who wants to win the White House in 2020 is going to need to harness the power of these voters. Indeed, the race has very much started, including the recent announcement of a presidential campaign exploratory committee by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has already started to emphasize how the middle class is “hollowed out.” One of the first challenges is getting people to admit they are struggling financially, and to talk publicly about it. This can be hard for members of the middle class, a group that has a real sense of stigma about financial floundering. They are hobbled by a long-held obsession with privacy and don’t always acknowledge what is troubling them, according to research by Caitlin Zaloom, an anthropologist at New York University. The second — and most basic — way of addressing the anxious middle-class vote is by acknowledging people’s suffering. At rallies, ask people with student or medical debt to raise their hands, so that they don’t quietly carry it with them for their lives, afraid to speak because they don’t want to admit they need help.
The new Congress and candidates of the future should tell voters that it’s O.K. to be mad about being in debt, that this is a savage society we now live in. They could talk about their own experience of debt, be it student or medical, or the debt of someone in their family. (What makes this a bit harder is how unrelatable, and depressing, the wealth of our Congress still is: in 2015, it was majority millionaire.) To win the anxious middle-class vote, politicians must offer real solutions for the challenges in the lives of these voters, especially on health care and education. Politicians from both parties understand the power of anger and anxiety as a motivating factor for voters. Post-President Trump, it’s impossible not to. But the frustration that comes from people who find themselves slipping down the economic gradient is one of the most powerful untapped resources in American politics today. Middle-class and poor voters have more in common with one another today than they do with the economic ultra-elite. And if they can continue to organize into coalitions, they could be truly powerful forces.
Inexcusable to have Exploding Deficits during a Time the Economy is Purportedly Strong
We’ve seen unmistakable proof Trump’s drunken-sailor fiscal policies are mortgaging our future, while his campaign promises were never realistic to begin with. See the bad news on escalating deficits in the-us-budget-deficit-is-about-to-top-dollar1-trillion-heres-how-that-could-affect-your-money-in-2019. This article below is posted from us-national-debt-2-trillion-donald-trump-presidency-deficit-treasury-congressional-budget-office:
The US national debt has increased by more than $2 trillion dollars since Donald Trump entered the White House, according to new data. Figures released by the Treasury Department showed the debt stood at $21.974 trillion at the end of 2018, more than $2 trillion higher than when Mr Trump took office. The debt stood represented 78 per cent of the US’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the fiscal year 2018, the highest percentage since 1950, analysis by CNN concluded. The deficit, which measures the difference between what the government spends and what it collects, rose to 3.8 per cent of GDP in 2018, up from 3.5 per cent in 2017. The national debt has been rising in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, when Congress and Barack Obama approved stimulus funding in order to keep the economy afloat.
When Mr Trump first took office, having vowed to reduce it to zero in eight years it, it began to go down. But analysts say it started to increase again as a result of a Republican tax cut, passed at the end of 2017, that a represented the largest of its kind in a generation. According to the Congressional Budget Office, debt could grow to 96 per cent of GDP (or $29 trillion) by 2028. “Three decades from now, for instance, debt held by the public is projected to be about twice as high in relation to GDP as it is this year—which would be a higher ratio than the United States has ever recorded,” it said in a new report. “Such high and rising debt would have serious consequences, both for the economy and for the federal budget. Federal spending on interest payments would rise substantially as a result of increases in interest rates, such as those projected to occur over the next few years.”
When he was campaigning for the White House, Mr Trump said he believed he could make the US debt free within eight years. “I think I could do it fairly quickly,” he told The Washington Post. To address the debt, Mr Trump in October announced an initiative to cut spending by five per cent across the various departments of his cabinet. However, last year the Daily Beast website reported the president had privately expressed little concern about the numbers because “I won’t be here”.
More on our increasing deficits are posted below as DC leadership look the other way, digging our debt hole deeper & deeper with each passing day: deficit-spikes-41-percent-in-first-quarter-of-fiscal-year. Wasn’t that a primary concern of the tea party, who now form much of the core of the Trump base? See the CBO report from this conclusion to the article the-us-is-running-up-an-unprecedented-peacetime-debt–and-washington-just-shrugs:
A new report from the Congressional Budget Office is enough to make one nostalgic for the days when at least some people cared enough about fiscal profligacy to fight about it. Instead, all of Washington shrugged at the CBO’s chastening message: The United States is running up an unprecedented peacetime debt and, without budget cuts or tax increases, paying interest on that debt will increasingly compete for resources with other vital public purposes, such as defense, education, scientific research and fighting recessions. Especially striking in the report was its estimate of just how large a fiscal adjustment the United States would need to attain quite modest debt-reduction objectives. At present, the national debt is equal to 78 percent of GDP, the highest level since 1950 and almost twice the postwar average of 41 percent. Simply to arrive at the year 2048 without increasing debt beyond its current level would require noninterest spending cuts and tax increases totaling 1.9 percent of GDP, as compared with current projections, each year for the next three decades. (That would have worked out to $400 billion in fiscal 2019.) To get back to the postwar average debt level of 41 percent of GDP by 2048 would take 3 percent of GDP in savings each year. Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans are responsible for much of the problem, having slashed taxes, mostly for the well-to-do and business, without even trying to offset that with budgetary discipline elsewhere. Many Democrats are eager now to take their turn. For all its technocratic framing, the CBO report simply expresses common sense: The longer we put off necessary fiscal adjustments, the more expensive and politically difficult they will be when the time to make them comes — as it inevitably will.
Why are so Many Prime-Aged Workers on the Sidelines?
Participation rates for those of prime-working age has ticked up some, but we have a long ways to go. It would be expected it should have recovered more than it has with low unemployment rates: labor-force-participation-rate-unemployment-economy. Some combination of inventing new jobs for the modern age & making sure job seekers have the required skills for those jobs should be a far higher priority. For those raising families, affordable child care, flex-hours & working remotely from home should become far more acceptable options to get workers off the sidelines. And most of all, jobs need to provide a sufficient wage to pay the basic bills.
Too Many in Working Middle Class have gotten Desperate
They’re willing to work hard & play by the rules, being dedicated to earning a living for themselves. But in many areas, the good jobs just aren’t there. Good-paying occupations have disappeared. Around these parts in NE Ohio, we’re scheduled to lose our massive GM Lordstown plant. But those autoworkers aren’t the only ones experiencing buyer’s remorse with the election of Trump: former-miners-blister-trump-for-giving-false-hope-about-coal-jobs-returning. Heading into 2020, voters should be much more wary of candidates making big/bold promises that are so unrealistic, they’re impossible to keep. Here’s an interesting graph on how much working middle class incomes have really lagged behind, which you could search for inside nymag/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-70-top-tax-rate-60-minutes-green-new-deal:
Healthcare Changes Surely on the Way
The way I feel about this, with the healthcare system demonstrably broken & driving our nation towards bankruptcy, something must be done. The GOP mantra has for years been repeal & replace, but when they had control of the White House, Senate & House, they couldn’t get it done. That shows they were unable to devise any plan that was better than what we already had. Having failed at that, the best we can now hope for is copying the healthcare systems of countries who’ve figured out a way to do it better, which in every case involves some version of universal coverage. Currently, we’re paying too much for the results we’re getting, with lots of powerful interests taking advantage of us. Drug companies are really robbing us, as we pay far more than the prices in other countries (while we also overprescribe in the U.S.): prescription-drug-costs-driven-by-manufacturer-price-hikes-not-innovation.
Healthcare coverage is such a pressing issue for Americans & this article from us-health-care-is-an-ongoing-miserable-failure makes so many good points, we’ve posted the whole thing here:
The state of U.S. health care is catastrophic. In no other area is the U.S. lagging so far behind the European Union. Average U.S. life expectancy is 78.7 years to compare with 81 in the 28 countries of the European Union. U.S. life expectancy has fallen for the last three years, while it rises all around the world. U.S. infant mortality is 5.6 per 1,000 life births, but only 3.6 on average in the EU. American maternal mortality is 14 per 100,000 births and rising. Compare that with a mere 3 deaths per 100,000 births each in Finland, Greece and Poland. As if to add insult to injury, U.S. health-care costs 18 percent of GDP while the cost is limited to barely 9 percent of GDP in Europe. This astounding U.S. underperformance raises two questions: How is it possible to perform so poorly; and why has the U.S. failed to do anything about it?
President Bill Clinton failed with his attempted health-care reforms. President George W. Bush’s Medicare reform sharply increased the cost of drugs for no good reason. President Barack Obama brought about significant improvements in insurance coverage, which the Republicans want to abolish to great damage to the nation. For the last two decades, free marketers have expressed hopes that the market would resolve these problems with new technology and charity. Alas, no progress has been recorded. The markets do not work because they have been captured by vested interests, reflecting a wider problem of current American crony capitalism. New technologies and charity are no match for these vested interests. As even the great libertarian Friedrich Hayek taught us in his monumental book, “The Constitution of Liberty,” basic education and health care are government responsibilities.
The U.S. public expenditures on health care are about as large as a share of GDP as European countries, but the government funding is so much more inefficient. There are five main reasons for the failure of U.S. health care. They have been well analyzed and all of them benefit major lobbies:
*expensive, dysfunctional health insurance,
*a non-transparent and discriminatory pricing system,
*a monopolistic pharmaceutical complex,
*a highly-profitable tort industry, and
*high incomes of physicians.
The late Princeton professor Uwe Reinhardt produced arguably the best academic research on the U.S. health-care system, while the best journalistic book is T. R. Reid’s, “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care.” Sadly, their many insights remain fresh, because the vested interests against reform have so far been overwhelming. Everything is wrong with U.S. health-care financing. It is completely fragmented with at least four major public systems, of which only Medicare for retirees is general and a plethora of private insurance schemes. All European countries have either universal private insurance or direct state financing, which are much better administered.
While European insurance companies are usually mutually-owned by the insurance takers, U.S. insurance companies work for profit and find it cheaper to harass their customers with innumerable administrative queries than to deliver services. Until ObamaCare, many insured Americans were deprived from insurance benefits because insurance companies blamed “pre-existing conditions.” ObamaCare also reduced the share of uninsured Americans. Yet, little is likely to improve in U.S. health care until the U.S. opts for a uniform system of its financing, be it public or private. Few markets in the U.S. are more protected than the market for patented medicines. Their prices are typically three times higher than anywhere else, and a major U.S. government concern is to block cheap imports from Canada.
Incredibly, President George W. Bush’s Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 prohibited the large public Medicare from negotiating drug prices, having to accept high monopolistic prices, while ObamaCare did nothing to reduce this generous corporate welfare. When leaving hospitals, patients in the U.S. are often contacted by law firms that suggest that they sue their physicians for the treatment they have received. This practice is so prevalent that every physician needs an insurance of at least $100,000 a year as protection against lawsuits, according to Reid. Naturally, many lawsuits are justified, but many are not, and they employ a vast army of attorneys. The American Bar Association is a major donor to the Democratic Party, according to Reid, and it fights any reform of the U.S. tort system tooth and nail. The Republicans call for tort reform but have not done anything to rein in legal malpractices. Finally, U.S. physicians earn twice as much as their colleagues in other wealthy nations. Physicians are kept in short supply by regulating the number of physicians being trained and by prohibiting most foreign-educated physicians to practice in the U.S.
The quickly rising health-care costs are a major reason that most Americans’ real incomes have stagnated for the last four decades. Can Americans really continue to accept this wasteful harm? The Republicans have tried to abolish ObamaCare and the limited improvements it brought about but failed to find an alternative. Currently, the Democrats have made improved health care one of their main issues, calling for “Medicare for All.” That makes a lot of sense. Medicare is the best functioning public health insurance system. It is universal for all pensioners. While it provides minimum support, it can be supplemented with private insurance. It leaves the supply of medical services and medicine to the private sector, though the legal prohibition to negotiate drug prices must be abolished. With such a system, the U.S. should be able to reduce health-care costs, while raising its performance to a European level.
What Can We Do About Shootings?
Gun violence is another area where America is suffering greatly compared with other countries. Background checks, assault weapons, mental health, & other ideas need to be part of a serious bipartisan discussion to curtail the carnage. The NRA has lost funding & been greatly weakened, so we should be able to take productive steps if DC finds the political will to do so. See these articles pulled from the newsfeeds:
Small Shops Always Defined A Town’s Character, Culture & Commerce
It’s been disturbing to see over the years how the big franchise/chains have run roughshod over local merchants/independent retailers in cities & towns throughout the landscape. Plus we know who tends to get the tax breaks, & it’s not the little mom & pop stores struggling to stay afloat, as seen inside business/economy/retailers-property-tax-dark-stores. It hardly seems American to let the big guys trample on these defenseless small businesses. Plus with local merchants, the funds tended to circulate within that town, not wired to some distant chain headquarters.
Are Dems Compromised Too?
The working middle class would be far better off today had they only had the clout of large corporate interests. We’ve seen for a long time how GOP politicians have sold out & cower to Wall Street & big-moneyed interests. But Dem leaders certainly aren’t immune to such influences. Political leadership regardless of party affiliation must be pressured to represent the people who elected them, not being so beholden to their big donors. The working middle class & the poor must be given a larger voice. I do maintain these past midterms may have been the most important election in our lifetime. A Dem House can now probe & rein in a president shown to be dishonest, corrupt & probably criminal, plus he’s a demagogue abusing his power with relentless attacks on our democratic institutions, putting our Constitution & freedoms at risk. Here’s hoping the Dems can multitask, investigating Trump while also crafting policies to help the people, not big donors. Let’s keep reminding them don’t forget the people they’ve been assigned to represent, as seen in these excerpts from house-democrats-donald-trump-subpoena-tax-return-impeachment:
But they will do little to slow or reverse the growing imbalance of wealth and power in this country, unless they are pushed to do so. Do not ever underestimate the influence of Wall Street Democrats, corporate Democrats, and the Democrats’ biggest funders. I know. I’ve been there. In the 2018 midterms, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, big business made more contributions to Democrats than to Republicans. The shift was particularly noticeable on Wall Street. Not since 2008 have donors in the securities and investment industry given a higher percentage to Democratic candidates and committees than to Republicans. The moneyed interests in the Democratic party are in favor of helping America’s poor and of reversing climate change – two positions that sharply distinguish them from the moneyed interests in the Republican party.
But the Democrats’ moneyed interests don’t want more powerful labor unions. They are not in favor of stronger antitrust enforcement against large corporations. They resist firmer regulation of Wall Street. They are unlikely to want to repeal the Trump-Republican tax cut for big corporations and the wealthy. Nor is the Democratic party’s big money particularly enthusiastic about campaign finance reform, measures such as matching public funding with small donations and disclosing all sources of campaign funding. After all, these measures would reduce their influence. When it comes to impeaching Trump, some of the Democrat’s biggest funders worry that such a move might rile markets. They are counseling the House Democratic leadership to be cautious even when it comes to smaller acts of defiance, such as subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns.
In other words, Wall Street and corporate Democrats don’t share precisely the same goals as do Democrats at the grass roots who worked hard to create the “blue wave” that put Democrats in control of the House. During my 50 years in and around politics I’ve found that nothing good happens in Washington unless good people outside Washington are organized and mobilized to make it happen. This is more the case today than ever. We should support Pelosi and the Democrats when they need our support to do the right things. We also need to push them when they need pushing. And we must fight them when they begin to cave. We must be unwavering in our commitment to strengthening our democracy and creating an economy that works for all, not just the privileged few. Addressing these issues requires a bold agenda.
See the Big Picture
We must recognize as free market capitalism has evolved in the modern global economy, a huge proportion of workers have lost ground in Western democracies. The private sector isn’t particularly motivated to change things, so the impetus needs to come from government intervention. Throwing more money at the problems isn’t exactly a viable solution, but we need smart ideas for restructuring & unrigging the very foundation of our economic system. It will in no way be easy to do, but must be done to restore the American Dream for the struggling working middle class. The opening to time-for-a-real-industrial-policy is posted here, with the rest of the article a rather in-depth, wonkish & somewhat complex view of important issues like trade & immigration:
We are living in a time of prescriptions for America’s economic woes that carry little meaning. Forget what you hear on TV: Unfettered free trade, tariffs, de facto “open borders” immigration (a consequence of a political dysfunction that precludes genuine immigration reform), and market fundamentalism have done little to eliminate the paucity of quality employment opportunities. A good New Year’s resolution therefore would be constructing new policies that solve this problem in a viable, long-lasting way, even if it means discarding increasingly outdated shibboleths. Much of the story of the U.S. and other Western democracies over the past 40 years has been the loss of highly skilled, well-paying jobs, displaced in many instances by the proliferation of low-wage and low-productivity jobs in health care, food service, or becoming a “gig” driver for Uber. The effects have been confirmed in a recent study by McKinsey, which showed that income growth has stagnated or fallen for the majority of households in the advanced economies over the past few decades. The only way to fix this is with direct government spending into the economy. That involvement must be via spending on badly needed public goods, such as infrastructure and publicly funded education.
But that is not the only legitimate role for the state. We also need a well-designed industrial policy that focuses on the creation of quality private sector jobs capable of profitably supporting workers with solid middle-class incomes. These must be accompanied by social policies on immigration, environmentalism and trade that do not simply treat worker displacement as an unfortunate by-product (“negative externality” in econ-speak), cast on the scrap heap of “progress.” Similarly, workers should not be viewed as “deplorables” if and when they understandably object to disproportionately bearing the restructuring costs as the economy moves toward greater environmental sustainability. Free market fundamentalism has done a great job of extracting value from the economy and largely distributing its gains to the top 1 percent. When governments occasionally find a way to redistribute the benefits of that value extraction to the broader population, whether via a minimum wage, tighter regulation, state intervention, or similar policy, these measures are invariably castigated as wrongheaded, inevitably leading to less efficiency, sub-optimal growth and lower standards of living. But from whose perspective?
Here’s the thing: Reiterating superficial “reforms” of outdated notions of free trade, liberalized immigration, and “comparative advantage” while ignoring the social pathologies created by these long-standing policies hardly constitutes a realistic policy response. It evokes the definition of madness long attributed to Einstein. Furthermore, in a hyper-globalized world, it is harder to make the case that any nation possesses greater “comparative advantage” other than those obtained through lower labor costs and mercantilist manipulation. Indeed, neither “capacity” nor “comparative advantage” is fixed; both are chosen. They are decisions, not fate. Even natural resources — while still a factor—provide much less relative advantage than in earlier times. Basically, any nation can produce anything. The only issue is relative cost. Since the developed countries cannot thrive as the lower-cost producers via labor advantage, the only tool left in the pursuit of economic health is to combat mercantilism with mercantilism (or reverse-mercantilism, if you prefer). The policy tools may involve forms of protectionism, but the same results might also be achieved via taxation. Since unemployment is the source of the extended pay benefits provided by the government, the government can, for example, permanently tax the source of the unemployment—U.S. corporations that have historically resorted to offshoring. Taxation done in this manner will help restore a permanent incentive to invest in plants and equipment in the U.S.
Ultimately, the aim is to change the labor share of the production equation, so that production vastly increases general welfare and living standards for the largest possible majority of people. By conducting policy with a view toward favoring labor over capital, the aim is to produce a larger economy, and more stable (albeit restrained) profits. Investors in the stock market might not benefit as much, but the rest of us will. There is, however, a chicken-and-egg element to the concept of warranted industrial policy. We cannot overstress profits or overprice goods until we have channeled sufficient incomes to households for them to afford higher-priced goods. Otherwise, we have an even bigger personal debt problem than we do now (average American household debt stands at around $130,000). It was a key insight of the noted British economist of the late-19th/early-20th century, John Atkinson Hobson, whose theory of “under-consumption,” as I have written before, “challenged the prevailing ideology of the day, which considered wage suppression to be good for business and society.” In fact, as Hobson pointed out, labor is not just a cost input, but an important source of demand, so restricting the former’s purchasing power can lead to sub-optimal economic growth. A better policy response (which runs contrary to today’s prevailing neoliberal theology) is to gradually enhance purchasing power by gradually removing direct burdens on households that limit their truly disposable income: State assumption of medical and education costs, and a reform of the tax system, so that it no longer gears fiscal policy benefits largely toward the top 1 percent (who have the highest savings propensities).
The Competing Forces of Capitalism & Socialism
Socialism sounds like a scary term, but Dem socialism isn’t nearly as extreme as the traditional definition. But as I keep warning, that’s likely coming in our near future if we don’t find a way to fix capitalism. Too much of the working middle class has been suppressed for far too long not to seek a totally new way: difference-between-socialist-and-democratic-socialist. I don’t advocate for a more socialist model, but we need to be more proactive in finding solutions to our current system, before out of frustration we fall into a different model that could rob people of their initiative. We may discover too late the grass really isn’t greener on the socialist side of the fence. But the current system is no picnic for workers, so let’s work together to fix it! A more in-depth discussion of socialism vs. capitalism is explored inside: what-is-socialism-capitalism-sanders-warren. In part 2 we laid out 50 reasons for the viability of an Elizabeth Warren presidential candidacy, which here is a critical area she might do the most good: elizabeth-warren-2020-antitrust-monopoly-crusader.
Good Advice for the Trumpeter Base
We know you voted for, passionately support & absolutely love your leader. But c’mon now, we all know being an effective leader requires at least a modicum of comprehension, empathy, honesty & integrity. So you can now abandon your support. It’s not too late to jump off that crazy train. We would welcome you back to the sane side with open arms. If you have yet to read the 50 reasons not to support Elizabeth Warren in part 2, please do. They are actually 50 reasons not to support Trump! As an inspiration to dump Trump, we provide this song for valuable instruction, since there are at least 50 ways to leave him:
Simon & Garfunkel – 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (from The Concert in Central Park)