Category Archives: middle class

The Media Blasts the Progressives

Sunday morning did not have much media presence on our TV’s because of soccer, which the networks hope will be the next great sports craze. However in just the tiny bit of time intellectuals were allowed this morning the media managed to warn Progressives that they were too focused on the middle class and they were about to ignore hordes of voters among the poor. Applying a bit of logic to this piece of skewed nonsense will show that Progressive/Liberal agenda items are not only important to the middle class; they could also be very important for those who are considered poor. But what the media may be suggesting is that the poor are deficient in logical thinking skills and will never realize these social programs would also help them. (Surely, the media wouldn’t do that!)

Americans who accept low paying jobs because they lack training and/or education often cannot afford to work because child care costs would wipe out their income. Single moms are in an especially precarious situation when they have no nearby family support system. If you can drop your children at home and if you know your Mom’s a nurturing person with a healthy lifestyle, then you are lucky indeed. Free day care along with universal pre-K, are certainly programs that would help lift some people out of poverty and programs which would also help the middle class.

Free training and college, another Progressive goal, especially if accompanied by reliable child care and pre-K and after-school programs is a triple whammy that might make astonishing inroads into the number of poor in the country. These same things would also provide security to the American middle class. Children would be cared for systematically and parents could work with less guilt and fewer interruptions. For the middle class these are peace-of-mind-items but would also help folks climb their career ladders. For the poor they could be the difference between failure and success. These programs might attack those pockets of stubborn poverty in America that we discuss so often and create pathways out.

Progressives also believe, and the experiences of other nations which have these supports in place show, that these programs also improve day-to-day life for the middle class and help them concentrate on their jobs when they are working and concentrate on their families when they are not, instead of being torn between two loyalties. Family leave helps families deal with illness, death, and crisis within the family without losing their livelihood.

I love the Progressive/Liberal agenda for its sheer audacity. To peddle growth in the midst of a push for drastic austerity takes a lot of chutzpah.

And this stuff, while jaw-dropping, does not strike us as being as nutty in a way as the right wing diatribes have been. If you ask me who makes arguments closer to the promises we believe are made by our Democracy, I would have to go with the Progressives. There is also the argument that we like these things Progressive want to fight for; we want these things; these things would be a godsend for both the middle class and the poor.

But we have been beaten down; we have been shown our greed and the affects that our greed has had on the Federal budget and we are ready to take our punishment. We are almost convinced it is just. We are almost persuaded that we cannot ask the rich to part with one more red cent of their hard-earned bucks. I say this with sarcasm but the part of the middle class which feels comfortable, that feels on the verge of attaining enough wealth to put their money worries to rest, are truly loathe to touch up the very rich for these programs (even if our tax structures and our laws are funneling all America’s money into a very few pockets).

Both propaganda and direct observation, I might add, have done their work. Americans with a strong work ethic feel like they have wage suckers attached to every window, door and crevice in their homes (thank you Progressive Insurance for that image). Perhaps they are right, but I believe the number of wage suckers would also be trimmed by adopting a more progressive approach to social programs (along with a really effective new way to wean people off opioids and other debilitating addictive substances.)

The middle class is ready to cut the wage suckers loose. Everyone should have to work and plan and save and climb. That’s the American way. And, yes, it is, but it has left a lot of wage suckers and those unable to work circling the drain. Abandoning them will not improve America. It will make it sadder and scarier. People will not just go live in suburbs, they will have to live in walled and guarded communities and be very choosy about who they let in. Or we can try one more time to help those who need it find a way to live independent and productive lives.

So the media may be correct about the factoid they offered which said that Progressive/Liberal talk is focused on the middle class and that they will lose a lot of votes with this kind of focus. Clearly, though, the same social programs that are offered to assist the middle class, would be even more helpful to the poor. It’s a bold approach. When all are moaning about debts and cuts, go big. Spend money to make money. If were headed for a 25 year long great depression on our current path, risk-taking might be just the trick to turn the whole thing around. We would be betting on the same Americans we have been talking about kicking to the curb. Now, that’s Progressive!

By Nancy Brisson

The Great Society Meets Globalization

The programs which came out of LBJ’s “Great Society” are right at the center of the differences between Democrats and Republicans today. It is possible that without our recent recessionary economy we could have side-stepped these differences, but once money became tight the issues came to the forefront. Republicans have been proponents of small government for decades and after reviewing the astounding number of programs designed and funded by the Great Society, it is easy to see why they would feel that our government had become uncomfortably “large”.  The federal government had its fingers in lots of pies, and the whole business made Republicans quite twitchy.
But it was working. The political uprisings of the sixties calmed down as people were put to work, or sent off to school, or were provided governments funds for housing, health care, and welfare funds to subsidize a more comfortable lifestyle. By the 1990’s there was a rise in the number of people who could be considered middle class. More African Americans entered the middle class than ever before, and not because of government funding, but because of real results of education, training and better jobs. Republicans say that the number of people who live in poverty has not changed, but the middle class did make some gains before the factories began their exodus and the housing market crashed and the economy went into recession. My internet explorations suggest that the middle class has lost all the ground it gained and that the same is true, although even more so, for African Americans.
We are all worried that we will not be able to afford the programs that have survived from the Great Society (many of the programs are not still in effect, some have been given to the states, but some are still being funded (Medicaid, Medicare, the expanded Social Security program). The Republicans never felt that these programs were effective or proper to begin with. They advocate changing them, cutting them or getting rid of them altogether. They feel that people have come to rely on these programs, that they are robbing people of “gumption” and making them lazy and demanding. They feel that these programs have caused the demise of the traditional family among the poor and are turning people into parasites. They also show us data that suggests that many of us do not pay any taxes and therefore a small number of affluent people who do pay taxes end up paying for these parasitic lay-abouts. What this assumes is that there are no people who are poor through no fault of their own, that there are enough jobs available to support everyone and that these types of programs cause poverty or at least prolong poverty. They suggest that we get rid of the social safety net and let the chips fall where they may. They reason that we will not be able to sustain these programs anyway given that the American economy promises to be slow for some time to come. They seem to have no qualms about recommending some kind of social experiment which involves kicking out all of the props and observing what happens.
If our economy stays as weak as it is, we probably will find ourselves changing or discontinuing these programs, but I believe that society will be the poorer for it. The world existed for centuries without organized programs to assist poor citizens. The world observed an order of rigid social classes that allowed for very little upward movement. Very few poor families moved up to the merchant class. Merchants were considered to be too crass to ever move into the upper classes, in spite of any wealth they might have. The conditions of life in poor neighborhoods were unhealthy and unsanitary. Epidemics of illness raged through the lower classes and eventually affected the wealthy no matter what precautions they took to close themselves off. Certain medical attentions are necessary to keep all the citizens in a culture safe which explains the genesis of health programs for the poor which must be paid for by someone (isn’t this worth some money from the rich?). In America we do not believe in rigid social classes. We believe in dynamic social levels that allow citizens to move up and down as their fortunes wax and wane. We also have come to see that some people are unable to move up and end up being doomed to stay poor forever if we don’t intercede. We have learned that it benefits the whole society to provide educational and training opportunities for poor people who are stuck.
Instead of asking can we afford to keep doing this, the question should be can we afford to stop? Will we be America if we stop or will we give up our American ideals? How would this new America be any different from the old nation-states or monarchies which people fled? When the distance between the fortunes at the top of a culture and the miseries at the bottom of a culture get too great conditions are ripe for revolution. We already have the best governmental format that has been dreamed up so far. We must not let things get so out of whack that we stand to lose our treasured lifestyle. Are we sure we can’t afford the programs which help society operate on a more level field? Wouldn’t all of us pay a bit more in taxes for that?
How do we get from too many regulations to no regulation? We can’t. Our memories won’t let us. How do we get from too much support for the poorest among us to no support? We won’t. We know better. How will we make our cuts and raise our revenues in a reasoned way? We must. However, given current conditions we won’t. Our ancestors lived in a climate in which the market was allowed to regulate itself. That’s where we got labor unions to protect workers from rapacious bosses and that’s where we got The Great Depression.
Even if the Republicans had not decided to take this opportunity to change the bargains we have reached as regards women’s rights, I would still hope that they lose the 2012 election. Society is not a social experiment, it represents the sum total of the lessons we have learned about human interaction throughout history. I don’t want us to voluntarily return to the dark ages.  I do not want to turn out the lights.