The main reason voters gave for their voting as they did in the Nov 2014 election was the economy as it affected them. Despite job growth going up and unemployment going down and the stock market going up and GDP increasing, most Americans were not sharing in the economy doing better.
As Steve Rattner points out in a New York Times article entitled “Inequality Unbelievably, Gets Worse” :
“Inflation-adjusted earnings of the bottom 90 percent of Americans fell between 2010 and 2013, with those near the bottom dropping the most. Meanwhile, incomes in the top decile rose.”
Democrats got blamed for the impacts of this growing income inequality in the US. Ironically conservative Republican policies rather than progressive Democratic policies have exacerbated this inequality. Republicans did a better job of blaming people’s economic woes on Obama and deflected their own culpability and contribution in opposing things like repealing tax loopholes on big oil and other profitable corporations and pushing for lowering taxes on the rich.
In charts presented in Rattner’s piece, he notes that because of the US’s relative low tax rate compared to that of other developed countries, less funds are available to help people in need of government assistance. The result is that the US ranks at the top as having the most inequality. Rattner says:
“That’s because our taxes, while progressive, are low by international standards and our social welfare programs — ranging from unemployment benefits to disability insurance to retirement payments — are consequently less generous.
Conservatives may bemoan the size of our government; in reality, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, total tax revenues in the United States this year will be smaller on a relative basis than those of any other member country.”
Democrats unfortunately did not talk about what they and Obama had been doing to help working families despite Republican opposition. Again Rattner noted:
To his credit, President Obama has succeeded in keeping income disparities from growing even wider, by such measures as by forcing tax rates on the wealthiest Americans up toward fair levels.
Meanwhile, on the programmatic side, among the many meritorious aspects of the much-maligned Affordable Care Act are its redistributionist elements: higher taxes on investment income and some health care businesses are being used to provide low-cost or free health care to a projected 26 million Americans near the bottom of the income scale.
Democrats moving forward need to wage a much more aggressive campaign to convince Americans that they represent the interests of working families if they want to take back the Senate and the House. They need to portray the policies and actions of the Republicans as benefiting the wealthy, not working families and the majority of Americans.
Democrats need to push for policies like increasing the minimum wage to a livable wage. People working full time should be able to live on their income and not need to receive public assistance. Public assistance is a handout to corporate America, subsidizing their workers while rising profits go to their shareholders. It’s corporate welfare.
Democrats need to support increased funding and opportunity for all Americans to receive a quality education. College should be affordable with low interest loans and grants to help people get an education without being burdened down with unreasonable debt. College loans should be able to be refinanced down to market rates like what people pay for car loans or home equity loans, not kept high to be a profit maker for banks. Also if you can declare bankruptcy based on car debt or home debt you should be able to do so for college debt. Treat everyone equally.
Democrats need to continue to push for money being spent to repair and improve infrastructure and for research and development of things like renewable energy and medicine and science and technology.
There is much to be done and Democrats can come back if they push for what helps most Americans. Republicans are doing a great job representing corporate interests and the interests of the wealthy and that is why we continue to have growing wealth inequality. That is not an America that can continue long term without collapsing.