Who Will Step Up and Save the Middle Class? Liberals Must Face the Stark Truth: Both Parties Have Agreed to Sacrifice the Middle
In the eyes of most of the world and in our own, to be an American is to be an optimist—entrepreneurial, positive-thinking, and future-oriented. It is not surprising, then, that our politics has not come to grips with the question of national decline. Yes, our governing elites have long debated America’s power in the world and whether it’s eroding. But about the future of Americans, as opposed to the future of the geopolitical hegemon,America, our most important politicians and pundits have much less to say. Despite the bitter public arguments over tax and budget policies, they share the implicit assumption that even harder times are ahead for the majority of Americans—if not 99 percent then at least 75 percent to 80 percent. But doom and gloom does not play well in American politics. So, whenever our policymakers cannot avoid the word “sacrifice,” it is gingerly presented as a temporary inconvenience, to someone other than the listener, necessary to rebalance the government’s books and return us to pre-crash prosperity in some unspecified, but surely near-term, future.
The evidence in front of our eyes is that on our current economic trajectory, the American middle class is headed for a further fall in its living standards, and the probability that the country’s two-party governing class will change course is close to zero.
The conventional chatter from the nation’s punditry declares that Washington has been made “dysfunctional” by excessive partisanship and incivility. A day does not go by without prominent editorialists, talking heads, and bloggers calling for Democrats and Republicans to come together in a “grand bargain” over budget policy. Yet from the point of view of its most influential clients, Washington is actually functioning quite well. Indeed, the most important grand bargain has already been consummated.