Something funny is happening on the way to the 2016 presidential election. While partisanship and political backstabbing reach high decibels, Republicans and Democrats quietly coalesce around a bona fide bipartisan agreement — the American Middle Class is hurting and something must be done about it.
No longer do we hear cries of class warfare from the Right when Democrats point to income inequality. Nor do we hear claims of hypocrisy from the Left when a Republican politician identifies the stagnating wages and stymied upward mobility that have come to characterize the Post-Great Recession American economy.
This is no small feat. As any emergency room physician or firefighter will acknowledge, you cannot start coming up with solutions until you identify the real problem. Democrats and Republicans have a very hard time doing so. Is global warming caused by human activity or even a problem at all? Is there a threat to the open Internet or just an unfounded fear of such a threat? These questions feed endless hours of partisan debate but never result in agreement on the existence of a crisis worth addressing. Enter the American Middle Class.
At one time, Republicans would accuse us Democrats of stoking the politics of envy for even pointing out the widening gap between the rich and everyone else in America. No more. When Jeb Bush, arguably the leading candidate for the Republican nomination to be president, gives a speech in an important presidential primary state about the evils of income inequality, especially given his bona fides as a member of the American wealthy elite, something different is going on.
True, politicians of all stripes, including anyone with the last name of Bush or Clinton, watch polls and test messages on focus groups. No doubt some smart bean-counter concluded that talking about income inequality is good politics. So what? If anything, this underscores how the issue has entered the mainstream American consciousness, leading to the unusual emergence of partisan agreement on the nature of a problem.
During World War II, American leaders disagreed on tactics, priorities, resource allocation, and many other issues. Our nation was united, however, on identifying the problems — fascism in Europe and Asia threatening our freedom.
Today, as in World War II, our nation faces an existential threat, but this time it is from within, not overseas. No society in the history of the world has ever survived when the nation's resources fall into the hands of a lucky few steeped in luxury — insulated from the masses behind high walls and gates.
The American experiment in democracy has succeeded precisely because the fruits of our capital have spread to a wide swath of working families. Take that away, and we become no better than any tin-horn, third-world banana republic, sure to fall when the peasants have had enough.
So we agree on the problem — stagnant wages, income inequality, and diminished upward mobility are killing the American Dream, threatening our great nation. Good. Now let's start debating the solutions. Anything has to be better than what we have today.
David Goodfriend is a Washington, D.C. lawyer and former Deputy Staff Secretary to President Bill Clinton. To read more about David Goodfriend, and his reports, Go Here Now.
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