18 October 2012

Romney and the middle class: friend or foe?

Had a chat the other day with someone who actually runs a business. He was feeling sympathetic toward Mitt Romney, not out of any strong faith in the man's virtues but first because he feels that President Obama has had his chance, and second from profound skepticism toward some of the charges made against the Republican. In particular, he simply could not believe that Romney intended to destroy the middle class, as some Democrats seemed to be saying. Why would any politician do such a thing, he wondered.

If Democrats or their sympathizers had told the shopkeeper that Romney had a deliberate, conscious plan to destroy the middle class, that would be a self-evident falsehood. It comes naturally for Democrats to attribute Republicanism to malice, but I doubt strongly whether the candidate has any thought of even harming the middle class. I'm sure, to the contrary, that Romney sees himself as the champion of that class. But if someone said that Romney and the Republicans simply would destroy the middle class, whether they meant to or not, there's a chance for that person to justify the charge. That's the point I tried to make with my friendly retailer. Republicans now seem to believe that there should be no limit whatsoever on how much wealth the successful can accumulate, and they consider it a moral imperative that the wealthy keep as much of their wealth as they can, since anything else is "punishing success." If you believe that the American middle class has been sustained or fortified to any extent by redistributionist policies, or by the power of organized labor through collective bargaining to extract concessions from employers, it must be evident that 21st century Republicans oppose those means -- not from a perverse desire to shrink the middle class, but from a belief that state action or collective bargaining actually have nothing to do with the flourishing of a middle class, and actually inhibit its growth. Entrepreneurship alone created the middle class, in their view, and the middle class's only hope lies in the most complete and faithful deference to the entrepreneurial, "job-creating" class.

Our shopkeeper has a pretty simple standard of national progress. He told me that he just wants to see working people make more money. It's hard to argue with that desire. The argument will start when we ask how they can make the most money. Republicans appeal to blind faith in the job creators and warn against making any unsustainable demands of them. Through history, that class has always complained that the demands made of them by their employees, or by the state, were unsustainable, but history tells us not to take those complaints as gospel, on faith. For Republicans, middle-class prosperity requires submission to the job-creators. It you question that recommendation, there are other candidates to vote for.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"punishing success". That is the charge right-wingers make regarding fair taxation. What about the continued punishment of the working class? The retailer you spoke to says he wants to see working class people make more money. Yet what BOTH parties today champion is the idea that the working class needs to continue to "tighter our belts" and "take one for the team" while their corporate benefactors make more money now than ever before.

The working class will only make more money when their employers are made to "tighten their belts" and accept a lower quality of life and THAT won't happen as long as either party retains control of the reins of power.