Who are the Real Elitists?

What does it say about how things are framed by the real elite when Barack Obama the candidate raised by a single mother who made it through Harvard through hard work and student loans, and supports economic policies that would help the poor through middle class is labeled the elitist? Meanwhile John McCain, born into privilege, who got ahead event though graduating in the “bottom 5” of Annapolis because his father was an Admiral, not to mention abandoning his first wife to marry into wealth, and who is supporting the typical Republican policy giving most of the tax breaks to the wealthy is presented as the man of the people.  How does this work?

Harry C. Alford did an excellent two part series that ran in the Seattle Medium that I cited some of the information above from on the realities of McCain’s privilege and poor judgment over the last couple weeks.  Meanwhile, Real Change ran an article last week about how the tax platforms of McCain and Obama would affect different classes of people, and an article on the vanishing middle class as well.

In the article Candidates’ tax platforms reward different groups, Michael  Beer points out President George W. Bush cut “$477 billion to the richest 1 percent over this decade.” Then he compares the tax plans of our current presidential candidates:

So what values are revealed by each presidential candidate’s current tax proposals? On the website of the nonpartisan group United for a Fair Economy I found a useful list of questions to ask candidates about their tax policy. The first question is “Who benefits and who loses under your tax proposal?” I applied their list of questions to the Tax Policy Center’s recent analysis of Senator McCain’s and Senator Obama’s tax plans.

The bottom line is that the ultra-rich, the top 0.1 percent whose annual incomes range from almost $3 million to hundreds of millions a year, would pay an average of $1 million less in taxes in 2009 under President McCain than under President Obama, if their current proposals became law. President McCain would give them a big tax cut, and President Obama would give them a tax increase. Almost a quarter of the lost revenue in the McCain plan would be due to giveaways to the ultra-rich.

For the middle class, President Obama would give back $1,000 on average to families making between $37,000 and $66,000 a year, while President McCain would give them $319.

Poor families making less than $19,000 a year would get an extra $19 a year from President McCain — not even enough for five gallons of gas. They’d get an extra $567 from President Obama, as well as a $500 per person increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit. That’s enough to defray the rising cost of food and gasoline.

President Obama would repeal all of President Bush’s tax cuts to families making more than $250,000 a year, while President McCain would make them permanent. President Obama’s plan would also increase taxes on investments to bring them closer to the levels of taxes on income from paychecks.

That’s a considerable difference, and Barack is also talking about things like giving tax breaks to businesses that create jobs in America (and eliminating them for businesses that ship the jobs overseas) and expanding opportunities for young people to go to college, in exchange for public service of some kind.

In her article, The vanishing middle class, Jennifer Ware interviews Nan Mooney, author of (Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Class.  Mooney herself had to leave New York City move back to Seattle and in with her parents as a journalist in her 30s raising a child. What she found was that there are a lot of people out there, with a college education and one or more jobs, like her, who were struggling. “People had these middle-class jobs where the wages really haven’t gone up very much, if at all, in the past 10-20 years, but fixed costs have kept inching higher.”

The self-definition of who considers themselves middle class is interesting:

You found people making $100,000 a year who called themselves middle class?
Yes. Actually, most people think they’re middle class. And I find interesting a poll done by the New York Times when I was writing the book where they interviewed people with huge incomes, and everybody who’d gone to college considered themselves middle class. It didn’t matter what amount of money they were making. They could be making $20,000 and they would still be middle class because they’d gone to college.

College is really important in this culture, and in our country there is the rhetoric that if you go to college, you will be okay because you’ve followed all the rules. I think it’s particularly frustrating to those people to still be struggling so much. They don’t understand how that happens.

I’m the $20k a year person (with college), though I have no self-delusions.  I’m poor.  I don’t have and will never have the money my working class father had through his union job, even though we had some rough times growing up.  It’s ironic that he wanted a better life for me and wanted me to finish college (which I finally did, after he passed away, and to my regret, because all it means is a large student loan I will never get paid off dragging my already low wages down).

But I digress.  So the middle class is struggling too.

Is the American Dream a myth?
I think it’s becoming a myth for a lot of people. And even though it’s not your fault that you’re in a tighter financial spot than you expected to be in, it’s very hard to lower your expectations because it feels like failure. Also I think that we place too much emphasis on the individual being able to fix this problem, because it’s really a collective issue.

Speaking of fault, where is that line between personal and governmental responsibility?
That’s a really important point, especially in this country where “personal responsibility” has become such a watchword. We’re supposed to be personally responsible for everything, and it’s supposed to be a freedom that we have to pay for our own retirement, our own health care. Employers used to provide pensions and other savings plans that have all but vanished. The system is out of whack. We need social safety measures in the government to help balance things out.

That is the heart of the issue.  People struggle alone, and feel it’s their own fault.  If you listened to the Republican spin this week, you’ll realize this is exactly what they want the American people to believe.  They say we just want government to get out of the way.  Out of the way and what?  Give tax breaks and contracts for privatization to the wealthy including your cronies?  Send jobs overseas, downsize, replace people with machines?  Or if you have a job, salaries stay the same while costs for housing, clothing, etc. go up, up, up?

Why is it that so many people who self-identify with the middle class consistently vote against their own economic interests? Or do you think they do?
I think that people aren’t aware that they’re voting against their economic interests. I think that if you listen to the news media, the issues can come out awfully garbled. I think an important job of the Democratic Party is to really let people know the differences between Republican policies and Democratic policies. [Democrats] have been afraid to do that, because they’re afraid to lose the big guy.

Another reason why I think people are afraid either to vote this issue or to even address this issue, is that they’re ashamed. They feel like they did something wrong, and they don’t want to admit that they’re in financial trouble and they don’t talk to each other about it. There was a huge amount of relief in the people I talked to when I told them that others were feeling the pinch as well. They would ask me how others were getting by and the answer to that was twofold: people are getting help from their families, or they are getting into a lot of debt. Basically, they’re not getting by.

Which party and candidates are going to serve you better, and who are the real elites?  

Just found this response from Barack on the issue of community organizing, which seemed very appropriate to add:

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