Crossposted from Hillbilly Report.
It seems like the one constant that can be depended on in this country anymore in good times or bad is the fact that working folks are working harder and harder and simply are not getting ahead. Even before the Republican recession last year wages have stagnated for decades and the gap between rich and poor has only widened as our middle-class continues to shrink. New numbers show that while incomes across the board have fallen, the recession has once again hit middle and lower class working Americans the hardest.
For the wealthiest 10% of Americans their earnings scarecly noticed there was a recession. In fact, the margin of their incomes as compared to working Americans actually increased while the poverty level skyrocketed:
The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans - those making more than $138,000 each year - earned 11.4 times the roughly $12,000 made by those living near or below the poverty line in 2008, according to newly released census figures. That ratio was an increase from 11.2 in 2007 and the previous high of 11.22 in 2003.
Poverty jumped sharply to 13.2 percent, an 11-year high.
In fact, any income gains made in the last decade were quickly wiped out as the policies of the Bush Administration and their former, rubber-stamp Republican Congress came completely to fruition. Of course, their policies actually helped their base while bringing much hardship on the rest of the country:
Household income declined across all groups, but at sharper percentage levels for middle-income and poor Americans. Median income fell last year from $52,163 to $50,303, wiping out a decade's worth of gains to hit the lowest level since 1997.
Income at the top 5 percent of households - those making $180,000 or more - was 3.58 times the median income, the highest since 2006.
This really underscores the need for the fights we have embarked on and really should wake all Democrats up to who they are fighting for. In this economy, more folks are losing their jobs, and even if they have a job have watched in horror as their wages have stagnated and the middle-class has been impossible to attain. After decades of the rich and the investor class having plenty of defenders and many politicians fighting for their interests it is time that we had a change of heart in this country and working Americans demand our politicians represent us. To get this, we simply have to stand up for ourselves once more.
The first step is demanding real reforms on healthcare. This means shifting any mandate from working Americans to businesses when it comes to Americans recieving health insurance. The same folks that have enjoyed all the profit even during a recession must be expected to help foot the bill. Americans are working harder for less wages and businesses refuse to offer health coverage to them at an increasing rate. It is time that businesses that are profitable to treat their employees with respect and a package of benefits that include health insurance. It is also time for a robust public option that would benefit those who work for smaller business and for those that cannot inflated insurance prices.
Another thing all this underscores is the desperate need to rebuild our middle-class by passing the Employee Free Choice Act to give working Americans a fair shake at being able to form a union and to bargain for higher wages and greater benefits. It is no question that workers have lost many rights in this country and that the current system as set up virtually makes it close to impossible for workers to form new unions. Since unions have consistently been the driving force behind the expansion of a middle-class they would be instrumental in helping drive up wages for American workers. Business has shown that no matter what their profits the vast majority simply are going to share those profits with the working Americans that have made them possible.
These numbers, along with other studies that have shown an entire generation may be"Lost" as they see themselves working harder for less pay and may become the first generation in the history of our nation that actually is less well off than the ones that preceded them. The status-quo has failed for millions of Americans and if Democrats now in the majority do not realize it is their charge to stand up and fight for working Americans once again they will not only lose the faith of their base, they will face the wrath of the American electorate for ignoring their own mandate handed them by the American people to change the way this country works.
Without a middle-class our country faces an extreme challenge to our freedom and way of life. It is time to fight to insure our children will not face a two class society of haves and have nots.