26 January 2012
The graphic above (from Think Progress) shows what has been happening to the American middle class in the last 40 years. To put it bluntly, it is disappearing. While the rich continue to get much richer (with their income growing by over 240% since 1980), the loss of millions of jobs and the stagnant non-growth of wages for most Americans has shrunk the middle class and thrown many more American into working class status (if they're lucky) or even worse, into abject poverty.
The Republican "trickle-down" economic policies, instituted by Ronald Reagan and accelerated by George W. Bush, deregulated financial institutions and encouraged Wall Street to play dangerous games with investor funds -- culminating in the loss of trillions of dollars, many millions of jobs, and the start of the most serious recession since the Great Depression. In addition, these same politicians encouraged corporations to outsource millions more American jobs by rewarding them with tax breaks to do so.
The idea was that when the rich and corporations had a lot of money they would use that money to create jobs and the growing wealth would be shared by everyone. It didn't work, because the wealthy aren't the real job creators -- no matter how much money they have. This is clearly illustrated by our current situation -- where the rich have a larger share of the country's wealth and income since before the Great Depression and American corporations are sitting on trillions of dollars in cash. And yet only a pitiful handful of jobs are being created.
There is only one thing that creates jobs -- demand for goods and services. When the working and middle classes have money to spend demand is created, and jobs are created to meet that demand -- and all classes in society benefit (including the rich). But Republican policies have taken money from the working and middle classes and given it to the rich. Since the mass of our society no longer has much money to spend, demand is depressed and the recession continues with little or no job creation.
The chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, Alan Krueger, says the shift in income over the last three decades is the equivalent of moving $1.1 trillion from the 99% to the 1% every single year of those three decades. Is it any wonder that the middle class is disappearing, and we look more like a banana republic every day?