American middle class families are struggling and pessimistic.
But uncaring, clueless, don't-worry-be-happy Rep. Jeff Flake simply admonishes them for not having his unshakable faith in laissez faire conservativism and the "magic" of the free market.
A new report by the Pew Research Center indicates:
-- Fewer Americans now than at any time in the past half century believe they're moving forward in life.
-- For decades, middle-income Americans had been making absolute progress while enduring relative decline. But since 1999, they have not made economic gains.
-- For the past two decades middle-income Americans have been spending more and borrowing more.
-- Americans say it has become harder to sustain a middle-class lifestyle.
-- Most middle class adults agree with the old saw that the Republican Party favors the rich while the Democratic Party favors the middle class and the poor.
In Jeff Flake's case, the old saw is as sharply accurate as ever. He was one of very few Republicans to vote against the recent economic stimulus package, just as he's voted no on every bill to help struggling middle class Americans with the rising costs of health care, higher education and energy.
You'd think from the way he votes that Rep. Jeff Flake has an absolute disdain for regular everyday people.
Maybe that's because he's a captive of the rich fat cats who bankroll his campaigns and his sponsors, the anti-family Goldwater Institute and the Club for Growth, aptly called "the Club for Greed" by Mike Huckabee.
As David Leonhardt noted in his business column in yesterday's New York Times,
the now-finished boom was, for most Americans, nothing of the sort. In 2000, at the end of the previous economic expansion, the median American family made about $61,000, according to the Census Bureau’s inflation-adjusted numbers. In 2007, in what looks to have been the final year of the most recent expansion, the median family, amazingly, seems to have made less — about $60,500.
This has never happened before, at least not for as long as the government has been keeping records. In every other expansion since World War II, the buying power of most American families grew while the economy did. You can think of this as the most basic test of an economy’s health: does it produce ever-rising living standards for its citizens?
In the second half of the 20th century, the United States passed the test in a way that arguably no other country ever has. It became, as the cliché goes, the richest country on earth.
Now, though, most families aren’t getting any richer.
“We have had expansions before where the bottom end didn’t do well,” said Lawrence F. Katz, a Harvard economist who studies the job market. “But we’ve never had an expansion in which the middle of income distribution had no wage growth.”
More than anything else — more than even the war in Iraq — the stagnation of the great American middle-class machine explains the glum national mood today. As part of a poll that will be released Wednesday, the Pew Research Center asked people how they had done over the last five years. During that time, remember, the overall economy grew every year, often at a good pace.
Yet most respondents said they had either been stuck in place or fallen backward. Pew says this is the most downbeat short-term assessment of personal progress in almost a half century of polling. . .
Real median family income more than doubled from the late 1940s to the late ’70s.
It has risen less than 25 percent in the three decades since. Statistics like these are now so familiar as to be almost numbing. But the larger point is still crucial: the modern American economy distributes the fruits of its growth to a relatively narrow slice of the population. We don’t need another decade of evidence to feel confident about that conclusion. . .
It’s hard to see how the economy will get back on track without some fundamental changes. This, I think, can fairly be considered the No. 1 economic project awaiting the next president.
Fortunately, there is an obvious model waiting to be dusted off. The income gains of the postwar period didn’t just happen. They were the product of a deliberate program to build up the middle class, through the Interstate highway system, the G. I. Bill and other measures.
It’s easy enough to imagine a new version of that program, with job-creating investments in biomedical research, alternative energy, roads, railroads and education.
You can be sure that if he's re-elected this November, Rep. Jeff Flake will be voting no on every aspect of such a program to build up the middle class.
If Jeff Flake is re-elected, he will make sure that unless you're one his millionaire cronies and contributors, you will be worse off in two years -- just as you're worse off than you were eight years ago when Jeff Flake and George Bush first took office.
It's hard to find a greater enemy to American middle class families than Rep. Jeff Flake.
He just doesn't care.