Why should an ecumenical blog, dedicated to Jesus’ and the prophets’ vision of justice, care about the middle class? Jesus and the prophets talked about the poor and outcast. It’s a good bet there wasn’t a middle class to speak of in their times.
We care about the middle class because, as much as we Americans may wish to deny it, class matters. The Reagan Revolution did more than turn politics around. It stood the structure of class relations on its head, where it has remained ever since.
According to the Reaganite view, America is a land where anyone, with pluck and a bit of luck, can move up through the ranks of class. The middle class should rightly aspire to upper middle classhood, at least. If Americans are to create wealth, then the wealthy should not be unduly burdened. Otherwise, why aspire to wealth? In sum, Reaganism proclaims that the fortunes of the middle class are tied to the upper classes.
This view has more or less prevailed for twenty-seven years, even during the go-go years of the dotcom boom under a Democratic President. In the meantime, the rest of us saw our public schools cut programs, our property taxes rising and then rising again and again, our fringe benefits dissolving underneath us, and our kids graduating from college, at great expense to ourselves, only to find themselves working at big box retail outlets next to all the other twenty-somethings.
It began to dawn on more and more of us, as the gap between rich and poor widened while the middle class began to shrink, that the gap itself was hurting the middle class. The rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and the middle class could go pound sand. The fortunes of the rich were opposed to the fortunes of the middle class. More importantly, the fortunes of the middle class and the poor are intertwined.
There’s a slightly Rawlsian question I ask free marketers, and I always get the same answer: “Assuming that your income were roughly equivalent to the country’s median income, where would you rather live — Paraguay or Norway?” Yep. Given those choices, snowy winters don’t seem so bad.
It’s the rising tides of the middle class that lifts all boats.
With all this in mind, I’m pleased to see phillip anderson at The Albany Project announcing and linking to a cool new reference site that tracks how members of Congress voted on bills that pertain to the interests of the middle class. You should bookmark it.
From the DMI Blog:
Link to TheMiddleClass.org here.
Now if only we had something like this for the New York State Legislature!