Thursday, February 15, 2007

More "Clown Time" With Third Way

There goes Philadelphia Inquirer business writer Andrew Cassel propagandizing on behalf of “the wealth perspective” again (as noted here - more corporatist hosannas)…

Can you remember when you first heard about America's endangered middle class?

I can. It was in the 1970s. Double-digit inflation was eroding the average U.S. family's income, and double-digit mortgage rates were making it tough to afford a home.

Just as we baby boomers were entering the workforce and starting families, gloomy pundits were telling us to forget about ever living as well as our parents.

An awful lot has changed since then - but America's middle class is still endangered.

Incomes are flat, benefits are shrinking, families are mired in debt, more and more struggle just to get by.

You've undoubtedly heard this many times; if not, just ask any blogger, talk-show host, or presidential candidate.

Only one problem: It might not be true.
It’s true, Cassel, and in lieu of repeating myself ad nauseum, I’m just going to link to my response to that idiot Jay Ambrose last week where I have already refuted much of your fiction (and isn’t it funny how Cassel doesn’t even bother to talk with individuals dealing with what he describes above but instead takes the lazy way out and relies on press release fodder from a D.C. think tank?).

Oh, and as further proof which I didn’t mention in the Ambrose post, check out how much debt this country has accrued and how much is owed by each citizen here.

According to a new analysis by a group called Third Way, the American middle class is in better shape than many believe.
As far as I’m concerned, Third Way represented an interesting concept when everything was great during the phat Clinton years of the ‘90s. However, as far as I’m concerned given all that has ensued since then, they are now trite and irrelevant at best (and they and their DLC clone sympathizers certainly aren’t responsible for Dems winning elections last November either).

Take incomes. Official statistics say that median household income in 2005 was $46,326.

That doesn't seem like much, particularly for a family with kids. If you imagine half of all such families trying to get by on less than that (median means half earn less, half more), it sounds fairly grim.
It is grim, when you factor in the cost of living and fuel prices, as well as wage stagnation from offshoring and the fact that more and more families have to shell out more dough for health insurance.

But as the Third Way paper points out, that median doesn't just include stereotypical nuclear families. It includes everyone - including single people in their early 20s and retirees living off pensions and Social Security, who together make up a third of U.S. households.
So…that paltry $46K figure shouldn’t be a concern for families since it applies to singles and seniors too? What kind of an argument is that? A large part of single workers are people just entering the workforce, where $46K is a pretty good wage as far as I’m concerned, and it also sounds good for seniors, though they often have to pay more in health care costs than anyone else.

Narrow the sample to households headed by people between ages 25 and 60 and the median income is much higher. In 2005, it was $61,269.

For married couples the median is higher still - $72,216. And among couples who both work outside the home, the 2005 median income was $81,365.
I guess Cassel’s rosy scenario projects that none of these couples have any kids.

Third Way, which is affiliated with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, also takes issue with the notion that today's middle class is less economically secure.

Some analysts say incomes today are increasingly volatile, with more families seeing big swings in their earnings from year to year.

But the reason isn't layoffs or outsourcing, according to the Third Way paper. It's motherhood.
If Third Way really believes this, then they truly are pinheads. And besides, if countries such as Scandinavia can subsidize parents (mainly mothers) who work at home and oversee the first year of their child’s development, why can’t we (see "Family Leave" here)?

(When looking into this, by the way, I’ve found some references of an increase in mothers raising children without fathers in these countries, but I can’t substantiate that at the moment. And if this is valid, I don’t believe you could automatically assume that would happen in this country for economic and cultural reasons; it’s silly to assume we are identical to Scandinavian countries in that regard.)

When women leave the workforce to have babies, their families' incomes drop. When moms go back to work, incomes rise. This didn't happen as much when fewer women worked, so it shows up in the statistics as increased income volatility.

In the real world, economic growth has brought benefits to nearly everyone. After adjusting for inflation, families in the middle class earn about 22 percent more than they did in the mid-1970s, the paper says.
There was a hell of a lot of inflation between then and now, to say nothing of the rising energy costs that triggered it (and contrary to what Cassel implies, inflation didn't magically end with the '70s).

True, that growth has been uneven. The distance between the very rich and the average U.S. family is much greater today than it was two or three decades ago. And that's a legitimate issue to bring up and debate.

But it doesn't mean those in the middle are losing ground.

If the Third Way paper is correct, it's a mistake to link Americans' economic anxieties to the outsized gains of those at the top. And it would be a bigger mistake to think that blocking trade or undoing globalization will help the middle class.
See how Cassel is morphing this column from a discussion of the “middle class” into an ode in the name of preservation and consolidation of capital (I’m sure this brings a smile to Bruce Toll and Brian Tierney’s faces).

The Third Way group takes aim at those it calls "neopopulists" - advocates and politicians, mainly from the left, who think global capitalism must be tamed and regulated to protect working Americans from running a "race to the bottom."

But the paper also criticizes conservatives who deny government has a role in making economic growth fair and sustainable.
Does that even count as “a slap on the wrist” against the Repugs? I don’t think so.

Government has a major part to play, they argue - protecting rights, maintaining fair markets, investing in health, education and research and assuring opportunity to everyone.
But of course as I noted earlier, when the Democrats did nothing but lose elections while listening to these out-of-touch DLC panderers, it's hard to do anything BUT argue with the Repug party in power and do nothing but reinforce the "recalcitrant Democrat" corporate media narrative.

"Middle-class anxiety does not stem from broad dissatisfaction with capitalism," the authors write, "but from the shifting terrain beneath their feet and the increasing irrelevance of an outdated government."
This to me absolutely cements the reality that Third Way are traitors to the causes of populism and people-powered politics. Anyone who claims affiliation with the Democratic party and utters words stating that our government is irrelevant should become Republicans at the earliest possible moment. And that holds true to any Democratic politician who claims an affinity for this wretched organization.

Nice job to tow the corporate line once more in true lapdog form, Cassel. Now trot over to the owners of your right-wing rag so you can sit up and beg while they toss you a tasty treat.

Update 2/22: And courtesy of The Daily Kos and the AFL-CIO blog, here is more economic "good news."

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