Like most of you, I have been following the very entertaining, but increasingly frustrating presidential campaign for both the Republican and Democratic Party nominations. It is apparent that many middle class Americans are very dissatisfied with the status quo, and want change. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that any of the candidates really understand why voters are so frustrated.
I believe that both major parties have betrayed the middle class. They seem to represent special interests, rather than the vast majority of Americans who are in the middle class. The Democratic Party appears to be pre-occupied by issues focused on minorities and special interests. The Republican Party appears to be fixated on lowering taxes for the rich, while ignoring the needs of the working middle class. Neither party seems to understand the needs of average Americans. The solutions that they are offering miss the point for most of us. Here are some issues that I believe they should address, but have largely ignored:
- America isn’t offering most average workers good jobs anymore. Is the key issue what fast-food workers make? Why should they make $15/hour? Most people that I know don’t want a career as a fast-food worker. I am concerned about whether my children (or I) can find a good job. Entry-level jobs should be just that. Where are the career-track jobs? That is much more important.
- Why have so many manufacturing jobs moved overseas? What can be done about that? Does either party have a believable solution to this problem? NAFTA (sponsored by Bill & Hillary Clinton) appears to have cost America millions of jobs. What went wrong with that program, and what can we do about it?
- Millions of Americans have gone to college and borrowed thousands of dollars to do it. They went into debt with the hope and expectation that they would obtain good jobs that would enable them to earn higher incomes. Now they are saddled with large loan payments, but can’t find good jobs. Why has higher education become so expensive? Why are loans the only type of student aid available to most children from middle class families? Why isn’t “merit based” student aid more available?
- The Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) has provided Medicaid to millions of Americans, many of them unemployed. However, it hasn’t provided affordable healthcare coverage for most working middle class Americans. Does anyone have a viable plan to provide affordable healthcare for those who actually work for a living? Why do non-workers on Medicaid get better coverage than retired senior citizens on Medicare?
- Social Security (“FICA” or “OASDI”) takes more out of most working Americans’ paychecks than income taxes. FICA takes out a flat percentage, and hurts those earning lower incomes, especially those just entering the workforce. In 1937 FICA withholdings were 2% of the first $3,000 earned. Today it is 12.4% of the first $118,500. This puts a huge burden on both employees and employers. Should we have a “graduated” contribution schedule? Should there be exemptions based upon family size and needs? Why haven’t any candidates addressed this?
- Most of the debate about immigration seems far-removed from where most of us live. Our welfare system seems to provide better benefits and services to immigrants than it does to tax-paying citizens. That seems unreasonable and unfair. Most other nations don’t recognize “birth citizenship” as the US currently does. Should this be changed, and if so, how should it be changed?
- Why doesn’t anyone talk about the national debt anymore? 0ver the past 9 years the national debt has doubled from $9 Trillion, to more than $18.15 Trillion. Last year the deficit increased by about $325 billion, which was the smallest increase in the past 15 years. How much debt can we handle? When and how will we balance the budget? Does any candidate actually have a plan for paying off our national debt?
A strong middle class is essential to a healthy America. Our candidates and parties must remember that, and address our issues.