Adrift on the ship of state

President Barack Obama  Credit: Getty Images
President Barack Obama
Credit: Getty Images

Many people love taking cruises. They prattle on endlessly about limbo contests, and their favorite Hawaiian shirts (never mind that they are going to Cancun,) and the endless shrimp bars. I, however, am not one of them. My skin crawls at the mere idea of being trapped on a ship with a few thousand strangers and a karaoke machine.

“Hello, Dante? I have another circle for you.”

The events of the past week have cemented my feelings. But I must say if the alternative is enduring another year of hearing how much Washington cares about the middle class, I may book a cabin and take my chances.

President Obama swept up much of the “middle class” vote in the last election, and as he plowed through his State of the Union address this week it was clear that he is not through with the subject. Time and again he has pledged his undying support to “the true engine” of the American economy, a “thriving, growing, rising middle class.” The only problem is, those folks have not thrived, grown, or risen much under his leadership no matter how much they may like and trust him.

When Barack Obama took office, about 133 million Americans were working. Today, about 1.2 million more people are employed. That is better than losing ground, but it is hardly the robust growth the middle class needs. On top of that, there is the persistent and equally damaging problem of underemployment. A recent study at Rutgers University found that more than half of the people who lost jobs and then found new employment, had to take pay cuts in the process.

I’m not putting all this at the president’s door. Certainly the big downturn started under George Bush. What I am saying is that for all the noise from Democrats and Republicans alike about how much they love the middle class, neither side seems to have any real ideas about how to help.

It is as if the middle class is adrift on a disabled ship, and all that the parties are really doing is watching from a distant shore.


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