April 19, 2014
Obama Used the Middle Class PDF Print E-mail

In planning for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, the president’s planners conceived a strategy to attract middle class voters without adopting any policy proposals to improve the lot of approximately 51 percent of Americans. Oh, during an early August 2013 visit to an Amazon.com Inc. facility in Chattanooga, Tenn., he called for “a better bargain for the middle class.”
Just what is the “middle class”? According to William A. Galston, former domestic policy advisor to President Clinton and professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, the middle class is composed of those adults “whose annual household income is between two-thirds and twice the national median – today that means roughly $40,000 to $120,000. By this standard, according to the Pew Research Center, the middle class is significantly smaller than it once was. In 1971, it accounted for fully 61% of adults, compared with 14% for the upper class and 25% for the lower class. Four decades later, the middle class share had declined by 10 percentage points to just 51%, while the upper class share increased by six points and the lower class by four. The U.S. income distribution is still a bell curve, but the left and right tails are fatter and the hump in the middle is lower. This means that the middle class is less economically and socially dominant than it once was. Relatively speaking, more Americans are enjoying affluent lives at the same time that more are just barely making it.”
A frustrated Iowa man in his fifties summed up the predicament facing many: “I can’t send my kid to college next year…. I haven’t had a raise in five years…. I am sick and tired of giving bailouts to the folks at the top and handouts to the folks at the bottom. I’m going to fire people [politicians] until my life gets better.” What this hard working American is saying is the “guys at the top and the bottom are taken care of while I get squeezed.” Guess who’ll be paying the bulk of Obamacare? The president’s (Non) Affordable Healthcare Act actually will force only the uninsured, 10 percent of Americans or 300,000 of 300,000,000, to buy health insurance. And one-third of those folks, roughly 100,000, don’t want to spend a couple hundred bucks a month on healthcare because they are young, invincible twentysomethings. But that’s a story for another day.
We keep hearing that the unemployment rate is dropping. In July, unemployment fell to 7.4% from 7.6%, the lowest level since December 2008. Employers added a meager 162,000 jobs in July, down from this year’s monthly non-farm job hires of 192,000. These new jobs are not going to revive the middle class. More than half the job gains were in the restaurant and retail sector, with few, if any, benefits, and most are part-time so the employer can avoid the Obamacare mandate of providing healthcare. Some recovery.
So how has President Obama “used” the middle class? The president’s advisors knew he could not win reelection on a referendum of his economic stewardship. According to the best campaign chronicle in years, Dan Balz’s “Collision 2012,” Ob-ama’s planners leapfrog-ged the immediate economic debate of jobs, etc. and developed yet another Obama message. Instead of “hope and change,” they conducted surveys and focus groups to discover “a long erosion of what it meant to be middle class in America.” Yes, they had to conduct this “massive research effort” to understand what is the middle class because the American political consultant class lives way above us mere mortal middleclassians.
Thus, as Peggy Noonan wrote in the August 10-11, 2013 Wall Street Journal, “The Obama campaign decided not to make the campaign about the state of the economy, but about who could look after the interests of the middle class in a time of historic transition. At the same time they decided to go after Mitt Romney hard, and remove him as a reasonable alternative. Romney’s selling point was that he understood the economy and made it work for him: He was rich. They turned that into a tale of downsizing, layoffs and rapacious capitalism. An Obama adviser: ‘He may get the economy, he may know how to make money…but every time he did, folks like you lost your pensions, lost your jobs.’ Somehow the Romney campaign never saw it coming.”
The Obama team’s strategy to attract the middle class voter by painting Romney as a capitalist ringworm, while providing no plan of their own, epitomized their back alley/empty basket tactics. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina stated: “My favorite political philosopher is Mike Tyson, who once said everyone has a plan until you punch them in the face. Then they don’t have a plan anymore.”
If Romney got sucker punched, so did the middle class, as the president has no plan beyond hollow promises. However, Obama still has three years to implement effective policy that concentrates on improving the lives of 51 percent of his countrymen and women. But will, or can, he?