Warren: Government Has Abandoned America's Middle Class

Thursday, 01 May 2014 11:33 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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The “hollowing” of the American middle class is a direct consequence of Washington choosing to bolster the rich and powerful while abandoning working class people to fend for themselves, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren writes in a CNN commentary.

The result of 30 years of policies friendly to the wealthy – things like cutting taxes for the rich and allowing loopholes for corporate America and billionaires – have resulted in a once robust middle class being brought to its knees, according to Warren, who as an assistant to President Obama helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She cites research from the nonpartisan Citizens for Tax Justice that showed 26 Fortune 500 companies paid no taxes between 2008 and 2012. This while the corporate tax rate, on paper, was 35 percent.

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“We need a level playing field to make sure everyone follows the rules -- and that breaking the law has the same kinds of consequences for bank CEOs who launder drug money as for kids who get caught with a few ounces of pot,” Warren writes. “We need to decide that our children -- not our biggest corporations -- are our first priority. We can take on the student loan problem that is crushing our kids, and to rebuild our roads and bridges, upgrade our power grids and expand our investments in basic research. And we can pay for that by putting an end to the tax loopholes and subsidies that go to powerful corporations and the wealthiest Americans.”

Washington need only look back to post-Great Depression America for proof that the country constructed a middle class that was the “envy of the world.”

The government at that time beefed up oversight in the financial markets and passed basic rules to “temper the boom-and-bust financial cycle.” America also prioritized children, education as well as medical and scientific research, the latter with the rationale that “if we built a great foundation of ideas, our children would have opportunities their parents could only dream about.”

The government built roads, bridges and power grids.

The efforts paid off, according to Warren, who used her own life experience as an example. After her father suffered a heart attack, Warren’s mother was able to support the family on a minimum-wage job at Sears. Warren herself was able to become a success after attending a local college that cost $50 per semester.

Fast forward to the current generation. Instead of helping young people get an education, the government is using them as a revenue source and profiting billions off student loans, she says. Investment in infrastructure has “nearly ground to a halt” and government research, “the great pipeline of ideas that led to the creation of the Internet, nanotechnology, GPS and a million medical advances,” has been gutted.

Warren suggests a shift in Washington’s focus, back to the people, not just those with money and power.

“We know how to strengthen the middle class in this country because we have done it before,” she says.

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