01 December 2011
By Ted McLaughlin
Republican congressmen/women like to talk a lot about class warfare. Their talk is really code for keeping the rich in the advantageous position they have, and preventing any new laws that might distribute income and wealth more evenly throughout the population. After years of funneling the nation's riches into the pockets of the rich, the very idea of "economic justice" is anathema to them.
But the truth is that there is a class warfare going on, and it has been happening for the last thirty years -- a war directed by Republicans on behalf of the 1% and waged against American workers. It started with Reagan's initiation of trickle-down economics about 1980, and was kicked into high gear in the presidency of George W. Bush. Over that thirty year period the income of the 1% of richest Americans has increased by over 270%, while the wages of the bottom 80% of Americans has been stagnant (and has actually dropped in the power of what those wages will purchase).
Republicans now want to blame the recession for the economic hurt that is being felt by far too many Americans. And in a way, that is partially true. But the truth is that the recession (brought on by the Republican economic policies) just hastened a process that was already well under way before the recession hit in late 2007. A report by the Economic Policy Institute tells us that during the period between 2000 and 2007 (before the recession hit), the real median income of working-age households fell by $2,114. That's a drop of over $176 a month, and that is a drop in real dollars, not purchasing power.
But while the Republican policies were making the rich richer and lowering the wages of workers, perhaps the most insidious and tragic effect of these policies has been to swell the ranks of the poor. We now have more than 46 million people who depend on the government food stamp program to put food on the table, and more than 15% of the total United States population now lives below the poverty line.
President Johnson's War on Poverty had been reducing the number and percentage of people living in poverty in America since the 1960's. Poverty hadn't been wiped out, but the country was starting to get a handle on it. Now, thanks to the Republican economic policies, all of those gains have been wiped out and we are now once again at record levels of poverty in America.
And most tragic of all is the number of children who are being forced into poverty. Thanks to Republicans blocking job creation, denying extensions of unemployment benefits, and slashing the funding of many social programs, the number of children being thrown into poverty is reaching disastrous proportions. In just one year more than a million children were added to poverty rolls -- from 14.7 million children in 2009 to 15.7 million children in 2010.
This means that currently more than 20% (or one in every five) of all American children now live in poverty. In some states, like Texas, that rate is 25% (one in every four) or 1.8 million children -- and Texas is a state the Republicans hail as being the beneficiary of a Republican economic "miracle". The fact is that in Texas and in the nation the Republican policies may be good for the corporations and the rich, but they have been an economic disaster for everyone else.
The Republicans have driven the American economy into a deep ditch. How much longer will we allow them to force our economy to stay in that ditch? Can we really afford to let them retain even a semblance of power?