March 6, 2009 Volume 19, Issue 9
Internet Research Site
It's been said that what makes America truly great is our love of freedom and the size of our middle-class. It's not just the recent recession that has hurt working class Americans, but the federal policies and excessively greedy business tactics over the last thirty years have eroded away a pier of the American dream. That part that says if you work hard and play by the rules you can get ahead and have some relative degree of piece of mind, but in today's America that's not true anymore. Thomas J. Billitteri captures the plight of downward spiraling Americans in his piece, " Middle-Class Squeeze " when he says, " Millions of families who once enjoyed the American dream of home ownership and upward financial mobility are sliding down the economic ladder-some into poverty. Many have been forced to seek government help for the first time. The plunging fortunes of working-class families are pushing the U.S. economy deeper into a recession..." Billitteri illustrates this powerful point with real life examples with people like 41year old Cindy Dreeszen and her husband seeking food from a local religious pantry in an upscale affluent New Jersey subdivision for the first time ever. They both have jobs and a combined income of 55,000 a year but with a second child on the way and other bills so high, they embarrassingly need to seek out free food. The main reasons for this epic national disaster are thirty years of government policies that lean heavily in favor of businesses. Our Congress has crafted a tax code that makes migrant workers pay more money than millionaires. A minimum wage lagging far behind our GDP growth has kept wages artificially low and keeps the working poor, perpetually low. Along with stagnate wages, the article also points out that the most predominate reason for Americans working harder and harder for less and less is a shift in benefit risk from employer to employee. Doing the most damage, disappearing health benefits and retirement plans. What unions fought for at the turn of the century were slowly, methodically stolen again from the American dream. What the author offers as the best solution is changes in governmental policies to bring some fairness and level out the playing field. Specifically, utilizing the tax code to have the wealthiest few pay for health care and other safety nets for the masses who work, but slip through cracks.
I like the way this area of research ties right into my first log of Income Inequality, which is the cause of this growing mass of working poor. We can debate the reasons, but to pretend America is not in decline is not feasible anymore. We can track the shift in policies, managerial tactics, net gains to the top income earners and the big losses to average Americans. The supply side argument that if you just grow the economic pie bigger, money will trickle down to the masses doesn't work. It was a good sounding lie, just look around after nearly thirty years of it. We know how and why they did it, we just have to find a way to make more people aware of it. As long as intelligent, good hearted Americans either vote against their own economic interests or worse don't vote at all we will just keep heading down this road to self-destruction. I also liked the way the article showed how political apathy helps accelerate the fleecing of middle-America. When average people don't keep politicians in check, business interest run ruff-shot over the well being of the country. I'm not anti-business. For God's sake I'm a friggin' commercial loan originator who is waiting and praying for the lending environment to stabilize so I can go back to doing what I love, helping business people fund expansions or just restructure current debt more efficiently. There's nobody more pro-business than myself, nobody. I just want it done with some integrity and in the light of the promise that I believe America can still be the greatest nation in the world again. Right now we are so greedy that we are cutting our own throat. We will not be great until we have a healthy and robust middle-class. We can't fixed this with executive branch regulation, it would choke business and create more problems than it fixes. This has to be done through Congressional legislation. Keeping the minimum wage up at historical adjusted for inflation levels and having the top 2% income earners fund health care and retirement funds is the answer.
This has led to to research areas that all fall under one heading, America in decline. It is based on the loss of economic freedoms to main street Americans. From lopsided government policies, greed based predatory business strategies, an unfair tax code, artificially low minimum wage stagnating other higher wages, misinformed gullible voters, and political apathy it is no supprise we are being robbed and left out to dry. I want to look father into the decline of the American middle class in the areas mentioned right above. The next log will be political apathy or specific government policies and laws that really hurt the American worker.