Today House Republicans are proving our point that they don’t like middle class tax cuts by refusing to bring the bipartisan Senate compromise bill to the Floor for a vote. As a result, Republicans will be responsible when middle class families see their tax increases on January 1. Throughout this year, Republicans have stood on the side of the wealthiest Americans at the expense of middle class families.
Some reminders for our Republican friends on why they shouldn’t be raising taxes on the middle class right now:
“Many middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold — roughly $45,000 for a family of four — because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job. Housing and child-care costs are consuming up to half of a family’s income.” (The Washington Post, 12/15/11)
Rising costs of higher education, even at public institutions, have made it more difficult for middle-class families to send their children to college:
“As state budget cuts have led to rising tuition and fees at the University of California and other prestigious campuses across the nation, the middle class has increasingly been squeezed out.… ‘We see early signs that middle-income families who cannot access existing assistance programs are straining to meet college costs,’ said the Berkeley chancellor, Robert J. Birgeneau.” (The New York Times, 12/14/11)
In public schools, more and more students are being enrolled in free school lunch programs as middle-class families report lower incomes.
“Nearly 60 percent of Georgia's public school students receive either a free or reduced lunch each day. That's an increase of about 47,000 students over the last five years enrolled in the program, which is aimed at low-income families. …The numbers reflect national figures that show the Great Recession hit middle-class families that were already struggling before the economy tanked.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/19/11)
All around, America’s middle class is shrinking, with income inequality taking a toll on families that once were able to count on steady jobs in manufacturing and blue collar trades. This is the case in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which was recently profiled in The Atlantic:
“…Unfortunately, Milwaukee's dwindling middle class is part of a national trend. A November study by researchers at Stanford University found that the share of American families living in middle class neighborhoods in the United States dropped from 65 percent in 1970 to 44 percent in 2009. …New service jobs dominate the economy, but vary vastly in pay. As in other American cities, bankers, lawyers and professionals earn handsomely. Cashiers, janitors and restaurant workers struggle to make ends meet.” (The Atlantic, 12/16/11)
It’s time for House Republicans to join with Democrats to pass the compromise Senate bill or risk responsibility for a middle-class tax increase that America’s middle-class families simply can’t afford.