The Bush administration has done a lot of damage to America in general, from peeling back our Constitutional rights either in secret or in unconstitutional “signing statements” to making the world a more dangerous place through its ineptitude in the war in Iraq. But there seems to be an especially concerted effort on the part of the administration to target and ruin the American middle class.
NCLB – The No Child Left Behind Act (discussed more generally in a previous post) will leave the majority of American high-school graduates with an education in competence, pretty much what millions of students in China, India, and elsewhere are getting, so that not only lower performing students, but now average and even above-average students will have to compete in a global market with others who have the same skills, but require much less in wages. The result is that the opportunities for Americans to attain the American Dream will be the exclusive right of the privately-educated, the well home-educated, or the very talented and exceptional.
Adult Education – The Bush Administration has reduced adult education funding by 70%. This most notably includes general equivalency diploma (GED) and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. This means that fewer teens who make bad choices will get a second chance at a middle class life. It also means that more immigrants (including the legal kind) will be marginalized, kept from integrating/assimilating, and kept from the American Dream just a little bit more.
More frightening is that those whose jobs get exported (thanks to NCLB) have less help in getting retrained in something new that they can make a living at.
A laissez-faire environmental agenda, although detrimental to all, is specifically hard against the lower and middle classes; it creates more health problems (and subsequent deaths) for those who cannot afford the health care. It also lets us know what is important to the administration and whom it will choose in a decision between big business and Joe American.
Bush and his cabinet have refused to submit the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate for ratification and have not been sufficiently aggressive in limiting soot emissions and increasing CAFE mpg standards; and they have peeled back reporting requirements for pollution emitters. If you want details, let me know.
Privatizing Social Security—This would allow Americans to put a portion of their Social Security withholdings into investment accounts. This has several adverse effects on the middle class.
1) Those who have the confidence that they can invest it better than the managers of the trust fund will take the chance. These will be two kinds of people: those who really know how to invest and those who don’t. Those who don’t stand a high chance of losing theirs, creating a whole class of Social Security “prodigal sons” who come back to society needing support, if not in the form of Social Security, then in the form of food stamps, housing subsidies, etc. Who has better training on investing, the upper class or the middle and lower classes? Therefore, who benefits from this policy?
2) It takes money out of the Social Security trust fund. This means that the fund runs out of public money sooner. Does this adversely affect the wealthy? No, but it does adversely affect the cautious middle class who are trusting enough to leave their money in the fund, and it incrementally affects more drastically the future middle and lower class wage earners whose Social Security contributions must be increased to keep the fund alive.
3) Joe Kennedy came out of the Great Depression worth 10 times more than he was at the beginning of it; need I say more?
Deficit Spending—The government is just like a household when it comes to finances. If it spends more than it makes, it has to go into debt to do it. The government’s “credit card” is treasury securities, bonds, etc. that the government sells on the open market to finance its overspending. And just like credit cards, there is interest attached, the interest that is paid to you and me if we buy T-bills, T-bonds, etc. In 2003, 16.3% of the budgeted revenues was spent on financing debt (and it goes up every year under Bush and his war). Multiply your monthly income by 16.3% and see if that is an acceptable amount to pay each month to finance your debt. But, just like you and I have to do, the government has to eventually pay off its debts if it wants to get ahead. This means someone has to pay more than the “minimum payment,” and, again, incrementally the burden falls on the middle class (of the future). (By the way, 44% of the U.S. debt is held by foreigners (64% of that (or 28% of total) is owned by foreign central banks).
I could go on, but I think I’ve illustrated my point. Bush and his supporters (the wealthy ones who have access to him, not Joe and Edith Nascar) are out for themselves at the expense of the middle class. In the short term, this means more money for them. In the long term, it means the death of the American Dream and all the creativity, energy, innovation, and economic power that facilitates it. But do they care?