The middle class has been handed more victories by Washington than it knows what to do with. Have Americans stopped paying attention? Does Middle America fail to appreciate how lucky it has been? We just celebrated a massive victory when the Supreme Court refused to shoot down the health care law. Harry Reid gave us the good news:
The Court’s decision isn’t a victory for Democrats or for President Obama – it’s a true victory for the American people.¹
Touting the health care law as “Secure Health Coverage for the Middle Class,” the White House assured us that with the decision finally behind us,
… it’s now time to focus on implementing this law in a smart and non-bureaucratic way that works for the middle class.²
This sounds like an impossible task for a massive, government-run health care system, but bureaucracy is the least of our worries. The Congressional Budget Office has downgraded its expectations for the health care law’s success, predicting that more Americans than expected will be going without insurance coverage, and that more will have to resort to Medicaid or CHIP plans for their health care.³ Estimated costs for expanding these substitutes for the failed public option have increased by $168 billion.4
Despite doomsday predictions from the White House when the Affordable Care Act was passed, increases in private health care spending dropped from 8.4% annually during 2002-2005 to 3.7% in 2010.5 At least Middle America will realize some deficit reduction from the bill, a double-edge benefit as taxes, fines, and penalties go into effect.6
Fortunately for the middle class, there were other victories before we arrived at last week’s health care law finale. For instance, in November 2011 Middle America celebrated Ohio’s vote to protect collective bargaining for public workers, something Vice President Biden credited as “a gigantic victory for the middle class” (see: Unions Vital to Campaign to Deceive Middle Class Workers). In the midst of the fanfare, the Middle Class Task Force Chair might have neglected to ask taxpayers in Illinois, California, and other near-bankrupt states how they felt about Ohio’s win, and paying the tab for union-negotiated pensions and benefits in their own states.
Long before Middle America benefited from health care and public employee victories it scored big gains after the Obama administration hit the ground running in 2009. When the House passed the Recovery Act so the middle class could go back to work, Nancy Pelosi announced:
Today’s vote is a victory for the American people. As the President urged us to do in his Inaugural Address just eight days ago, the House is taking action, ‘bold and swift,’ by passing a bill to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs.7
The bill was signed in February 2009, when unemployment was 8.3%. Under the watchful eyes of the Obama White House and a Democratic Congress, by Christmas 2009 the middle class was given another gift, 9.9% unemployment.
More wins were on the way. The middle class was victorious when the president signed off on a tax cut and an unemployment insurance extension:
First and foremost, the legislation I’m about to sign is a substantial victory for middle-class families across the country. They’re the ones hit hardest by the recession we’ve endured. They’re the ones who need relief right now. And that’s what is at the heart of this bill.8
Perhaps we should have questioned why extending jobless benefits was necessary in the midst of all these victories, but so many good things were planned for Middle America that it was hard to keep track. When Congress agreed to raise our debt ceiling last summer, America won again. The White House assured the country of the significance of the debt ceiling deal:
This compromise guarantees more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction. It’s an important first step to ensuring that as a nation we live within our means.9
That guarantee means across the board spending cuts are waiting for us at the beginning of next year (see: Federal Debt Crisis, Sequestration Will Turn Ugly in November). The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that if the cuts go into effect recession will return, and there are also warnings of potential job losses. Fortunately, middle class Americans have a say in their future. After the deal was made on the debt ceiling hike, the president observed:
And the American people’s voice is a very, very powerful thing.10
It better be powerful. How many more victories can the middle class take?