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Tuesday Talk: Can middle-class families get ahead?

August 21, 2012 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

Many middle-class families struggle to keep a roof over their heads, and pay for food, transportation, and other living necessities. If they're really good savers and aren’t hit with a catastrophic emergency, there’s a little left over for retirement or a college fund. Increasingly, however, middle-class salaries are shrinking. Conservative policy is pushing more of public services’ costs onto families. And now, families face new long-term needs, such as nursing care. No matter who becomes President or who wins control of the state legislature, more cuts and higher individual costs are almost a certainty.

How can a middle-class family ever get ahead?

How can we give these families a more stable footing?

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  • Tom Klevorn says:

    August 21, 2012 at 8:31 am

    From my point of view, tax reform is the key. Through a system of spending based increasingly on tax expenditures (e.g., tax deductions) our current tax policy skews economic decisions, distorts our system of markets and ultimately concentrates economic power in the hands of a relative few. I believe that informing voters of the tremendous inequalities currently included in our tax system is a key first step in reforming our current system of taxation. Reform of this system from top to bottom is essential to the well being of our economic, social and government systems.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    August 21, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Yes, reform of our tax system is exactly what we need.  We need, for one thing, to educate the American public on the harm that has been done them by the nonsensical teachings of Grover Norquist. 

    Grover was a Nixon volunteer at Age 11.  At Age 12, he had the brainstorm that has ruled his life’s work:  If every Republican refused to raise taxes EVER no matter what, America would prosper. He has succeeded in making all conservative Republicans (not moderate ones, however) that his anti-tax mantra is what we need to make our economy healthy and growing.

    Why anyone believes this instead of saying, “What???” is hard to understand when we know from past experience that progressive taxation is fair to all income groups and does provide enough revenue for government to do its job well. 

    Our current policy of huge breaks to the wealthy and to large corporations leaves the poor and middle classes to carry the load of supporting our government and infrastructure.  Not good, Grover, not good at all, because the poor and middle classes cannot carry that load alone.  All, rich and poor, suffer from the no-tax myth.

  • Mark says:

    August 21, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Having a service sector job, I see the real need is to bring back a solid manufacturing base to our economy.

    Yes; it is true that raising the taxes on those most able to afford them is a way; although unpopular, of improving society for all.  But once there, what can sustain it?

    If we bring back a focus on reversing our current import/export strategy and focus on manufacturing, we will see a sustainable and immediate rise in GDP.

    If we start to do the opposite of our current model, meaning we begin to import and increase larger ammounts of raw materials, and then export a finished manufactured durable good that is made in the USA, we will se that proverbial “rising tide that will lift all boats”.

    A solid manufacturing base of finished goods production will do more to produce a sustainable middle class with sustainable growth and jobs.

  • KJC says:

    August 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    There are no “wrong” results… in the sense that if you get the same results, over and over, that is what your system (machine) is designed to produce.
    Why is this important to acknowledge?  I often find that people are hoping to keep things nearly like they are, and yet somehow get significantly different results.  NOT!
    For the last 30 years we’ve had an anti-government, anti-regulation, let the manufacturing jobs go, “trickle down” economic policies.  The trend of the results produced seem to be fairly consistent: a steady squeeze on the compensation for the bottom 90% and huge gains for the top 10%. 
    If you want a different outcome, we will need to DO something genuinely different.  This is why I’ve suggested “if you want to sell here, you will employ here” legislation.  THAT would have the effect of getting capital and labor into some alignment working again, and there would be a more mutual prosperity. (Even Citibank says so… be happy to send anybody their review on what would change things, if they have doubts.)
    It’s not the only idea, but it’s one in the range of magnitude needed to really turn things around.  I sure wish President Roosevelt had gotten his 2nd Bill of Rights (to WIN the Peace, as he called it) passed before he died.  We likely wouldn’t be in this mess now.
    It’s We the People, so it’s up to us.. just like it has been for every American renew the great American Experiment.  Only if you say “not me” are we really in trouble…

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    August 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Mark, your comment reminded me of the existence of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.  The media are publishing the official version of jobs, et cetera, but NOT what seems to be the truth.

    Earlier this year, Public Citizen was given some leaked documentation showing that negotiations on this agreement have been held with the 9 proposed member countries and 600 corporate representatives while Congress has been left in the dark.  Public Citizen has labeled the agreement Nafta On Steroids and says their study of it reveals that:

    1) off-shoring jobs will again be made easy for corporations looking for cheap labor

    2) Congress will have to forego their Buy American practice in order to give foreign companies an equal opportunity to bid on US government contracts

    3) foreign countries will be allowed to sue our government for reimbursement (with our tax dollars) of the amount of profit they estimate they will lose because of our labor and environmental protection laws

    4) drug companies will be allowed to extend patents and charge high prices instead of letting other companies produce and sell generics

    There’s much more at (and an interview with Public Citizen’s Mary Wallach at but nothing in the NY Times, other major newspapers or TV networks.  I have contacted several and been ignored, as has Public Citizen.

    The relevant committee in the Senate and 133 members of the House have both written the Administration upon hearing from Public Citizen what this bill really means, but their words have not been widely quoted any more than the agreement itself.

    I recently heard a US labor leader praising the TPP because it means job growth here at home.  They, too, are being kept in the dark.

    Does Occupy know about this, I wonder??

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    August 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    As a 62%er, (neither Rich or Middle Class) I am much more concerned with when the working poor are going get something real. “Change we can believe in” didn’t work any better for us than the previous fool and liar. Those in my caste system have seen no help in over 40 years. When Bill Clinton got a raise in minimum wage, most of us lost benifiets and went on 32 hrs. per week or less so Wal Mart and McDonalds wouldn’t go broke paying it, thanks for nothing again. Time the DFL starts reframing the discussion around the majority rather than their minority base. I personally would be willing to help the Middle Class but not before we get ours, comprende.