How does it feel to be the most important person in America?
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a member of the middle class. And, as you may have noticed, everything in politics is all about the middle class all of a sudden.
Increased use of the phrase started gaining traction just before the Republican and Democratic conventions this summer, and every speaker at both made sure to emphasize that whatever they wanted to do was to help the middle class.
Six months ago, it was all about the job creators. They were the backbone of our economy. But you’ve supplanted them. A recent Google search turned up 517 million references for “middle class,” and a mere 185 million for “job creators.”
That should feel kind of nice, considering that recently the middle class has been the forgotten stepchild of interest groups.
This month the U.S. Census issued its annual report on poverty and income and said the middle class is continuing to shrink as more income is transferred to the wealthiest Americans. The wealthiest 25 percent of us now take home more than 73 percent of all income. The top 5 percent alone take home 22 percent.
In August, the Pew Research Center said middle-class families have seen their incomes shrink over the past 10 years, the first time that’s happened since World War II.
So sticking up for the middle class is a bit like putting an endangered species sticker on your SUV.
This month, Gov. Chris Christie even changed the name of his roadshow from the “New Jersey comeback” tour to the “Middle Class Reform Agenda.”
He’s pushing the same programs, including a proposed tax cut that would benefit the wealthy much more than the average Joe, but under a new banner.
Which pinpoints the problem, nationally and in New Jersey. There’s a big difference between tacking an “and it helps the middle class” post-it onto your pet programs and actually trying to figure out how to preserve and strengthen the middle class.
Because as cynical as some of these politicians may be, they are right about one thing. Without a strong middle class — the workers, the shoppers, the parents, the volunteers, the small-business owners — we’re in a lot of trouble.