It happens every time. Without fail, in any given election cycle, a hubbub erupts about the middle class. In years past, I largely ignored this. Coming from working class roots, none of it seemed to apply to me. It was just another moot point for the two-party system to argue over. I was going to be poor either way.
But now I am older, better off financially, and starting to think about things like paying off my mortgage, funding my children’s higher education, and saving for retirement. The political flap is in my ear — and I need to start paying attention.
Recently, a report titled The Middle Class at Risk was released by the Center for American Progress. In it, they outline the “dangerous gap between the rhetoric and reality of Republican prescriptions for the economy.” Despite the lip-service given to the interests of middle-income individuals and families, the GOP is offering little in the way of substantive support to these constituents — and often acting to block measures that would allow for upward mobility.
This is nowhere as apparent as in North Carolina. From the negative impacts of tax allocations to the wealthiest few, to the “war on public education,” and the continued inaction on raising the minimum wage — Republican policies are working to exacerbate, rather than alleviate, the gap between rich and poor.
Of course, the NC GOP website argues that their tax increases on families paled in comparison to those levied against gasoline, tobacco, and alcohol purchases (among others) by Democratic-led initiatives. The argument is that taxes are taxes — regardless of whether they affect citizens or corporations. Though Pat McCrory’s website touts his “Record of Success” on economic issues, the latest public policy polls show him at the lowest approval ratings of his career — with the biggest drop coming from Republican-registered voters.
Right now, North Carolina is ranked #41 in the nation for middle class incomes, while we are 13th in the nation in poverty rates. We are continuing to get poorer and, as more educators find themselves subject to teacher flight, we are also getting dumber.
I am in graduate school, pinning my hopes on the idea that another university degree will result in attaining another level of economic security. The flip side to that, is that it may just end up in an even larger pool of impossible debt. As the middle class continues to be whittled down by politics and policies, I am faced with the reckoning that the next step up may not exist at all- and my family may be left to tumble through the gap.
As we move through the primaries- and the endless debates and public skirmishes over how each side will serve this population- it is important that we keep in mind the effects of how the politicians decisions affect our populace. Do we want the masses to pay, while the few continue to profit from the fallacy of trickle-down economics?