For those caught in the middle and lower income brackets, the economic news looks bleak, very bleak. This is not actually news to those affected, but is something we are not hearing enough from the MSM, let alone the liberal blogosphere, who are for the most part trumpeting Cindy Sheehan, bring the troops home and Plamegate. Not to discount the importance of these issues, however, other issues that affect average Americans are falling by the wayside, as we struggle to get by daily with raising prices at the stores and pumps, and falling wages.
Thomas Oliphant writes in the Boston Globe today, “For more than a year, hard-pressed Americans have been trying to signal the political establishment that something is upside-down wrong in an economy that is producing soaring costs and flat incomes.” No one is listening.
Given the blinders associated with his fervent ideology, President Bush’s deaf ear is expected and unremarkable.
“It’s progressive politicians who should be paying more attention.” But, this issue has been overshadowed by the myriad of other issues being pushed by the progressive grassroots. The very sector that liberal and progressive grassroots need to reach out to, are being left by the wayside. To many of these people, their pocketbook is the number one concern, yet no one is listening.
More than a hundred years ago, Charles Dickens’s cockeyed optimist, Wilkins Micawber, explained to David Copperfield that the difference between happiness and misery involves the positive or negative difference between income and expenses.
The signal coming from working Americans (and retired ones, too) has been precisely that. As the government confirmed once again last week, rising costs have outpaced stagnant wages in ten of the last 12 months. The only positive news was recorded last September and in June. But that was overwhelmed by the trend that has eroded the value of the ordinary paycheck. As almost always happens in such spirals, the problem involves wages and prices. The former are as close to stagnant as it’s possible to get; these days, a 2 percent raise is heralded as generous and the employee who gets one is considered lucky.
It’s the prices people pay, especially for necessities, that have exploded. For more than a year, the cost of gasoline and heating oil has been soaring. And for five years, the cost of healthcare has been exploding, too, even as the value of what care people can buy has been eroded via sharp increases in deductibles and copayments.
I’m not suggesting here that we should drop all of the other issues so important to all of us, but as Thomas Oliphant points out, the issue of economy should not take a backseat. Average Americans are struggling to make ends meet. There is no relief in sight. We need to stop and listen to these concerns if we want to get this sector of voters to the polls in 2006.
The Bush administration is in an ideological straitjacket. But progressive politicians have several issues they should raise, particularly long overdue increases in the minimum wage and the earned income tax credit — kitchen table matters that should not take a backseat to the latest fears about John Roberts.
With corporations sitting on more than a trillion dollars in idle cash, with tax breaks helping create astonishing increases in wealth at the top, the people who make this economy work deserve some cash of their own. They also need it.
A few weeks ago we learned that hourly wages of blue-collar, non-managerial workers rose 0.4% in July, the fastest monthly growth rate in a year. Today we learned from the new consumer price index (CPI) report that inflation gobbled up that increase and more, causing both the real hourly and weekly wage to fall slightly in July (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/realer.pdf).
I write about this here today, because I feel the pain. As a small business owner who supplies retailers, I’ve watched my sales spiral down for nearly two years. When people ask why, all I can answer is “it’s the economy, stupid.” I speak to other small business owners on a daily basis, they too feel the same pain that I do. Isn’t it time someone listen to this large sector of voters? Thomas Oliphant thinks it is, and so do I.