It’s Time for the US Middle Class to Make a Comeback

2014 925 mid stRally to save the middle class at the Governor’s Square in Iowa. (Photo: Mike Hiatt)Do you want media that’s accountable to YOU, not to advertisers or billionaire sponsors? Help sustain Truthout’s work by clicking here to make a tax-deductible donation!

Conservative economic policies are eating middle class Americans alive – and killing us, too.

For any society to work, people’s basic needs have to be met, whether they have a job or not, and whether the economy is in an upswing or a downswing.

As FDR laid out in his Second Bill of Rights, those basic needs include things like access to food, health care, housing, education and gainful employment.

Unfortunately, thanks to 34 years of failed Reaganomics policies, the ability of Americans to meet those most basic of needs has all but disappeared.

A new report out from the Center for American Progress (CAP) highlights just how big a hit America’s middle class families have taken from conservative economic policies.

As CAP points out, for a typical middle class married couple with two children, the combined costs of health care, day care, housing and savings for college and retirement increased a staggering 32 percent between 2000 and 2012.

As result, it’s become next to impossible for middle class families to do some of the most basic of things, including having a place to call home.

Housing costs have increased 28 percent over the past 12 years, meaning that fewer and fewer families can afford to purchase a home and build equity in it in preparation for retirement.

Americans are also unable to buy a home and take on a mortgage because they’re taking 20 years to pay off the mountains of student loan debt they’re graduating college with.

While owning a house has become next to impossible for the American middle class, renting a house isn’t exactly a bargain either.

Over half of renters in American spend 30 percent or more of their total income on housing, leaving less and less money for other essentials.

Meanwhile, as Americans are struggling to buy homes and start families in them, they’re also struggling to save up for their children’s college educations.

According to the CAP report, the average amount of money that a middle class family with two kids has to save for college education skyrocketed by 39 percent between 2000 and 2012.

And, the cost of an education from a four-year public college or university increased by a staggering 86 percent during that same time period.

But the high costs of housing and higher education for middle class families pale in comparison to the outrageously high costs of health care in this country.

Even with Obamacare, Americans are still struggling to pay for the health care they need to survive.

The CAP report found that between 2002 and 2012, average out-of-pocket health care costs for a family of four with an employer-provided health plan increased by a whopping 85 percent.

Middle class Americans also have to use more and more of their take-home pay for medical expenses.

In 2000, health care expenses accounted for 5.4 percent of Americans’ overall spending. Last year, 7.1 percent of Americans’ take-home pay went to health care expenses.

It’s these high health care costs that are literally killing people. People like Charlene Dill.

Back in March, Charlene Dill, a hardworking single mom who worked three jobs to help make ends meet, collapsed and died from an untreated heart condition.

Like approximately 750,000 other Floridians stuck in the Red State doughnut-hole, Charlene knew she was sick and needed medication, but couldn’t get it, because Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, and she couldn’t afford to pay out-of-pocket.

Meanwhile, while the costs of health care, housing, education and other expenses have soared for middle class families over the past decade, median household income has fallen by 8 percent.

So, there you have it.

Thirty-four years of failed Reaganomics polices have decimated the American middle class, to the point where Americans can’t even meet their most basic of needs.

Americans can’t put roofs over their heads, put their kids through college, pay for life-saving healthcare or save up for retirement.

This is simply wrong.

We need to get the middle class back on track.

That starts by introducing trade policies that protect American jobs, tax policies that even the playing field, adopting policies that make life-saving health care more affordable and education policies that make a college education a reality instead of a pipe dream for millions of Americans.

It’s time to repudiate Reaganomics, so the American middle class can make a comeback.