Democrats’ middle-class problem

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) speaks during a news conference about immigration as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) looks on, on Capitol Hill.

Chuck Schumer (L) looks on as Harry Reid speaks during a Nov. 20 press conference.

 

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, Sen. Chuck Schumer made some news with a speech that was openly critical of his fellow Democrats for pushing ahead with Obamacare as if the earlier “stimulus” bill was all the economy needed. The proper way to view this speech is not so much a repudiation of Obamacare, the contents of which he said “are and will continue to be positive changes.” Rather, it’s as a big step toward repositioning the Democratic Party following its second midterm shellacking in a row, and ahead of the 2016 elections and the end of the Obama era.

Consider this passage from the National Journal account of Schumer’s speech at the National Press Club last Tuesday:

“‘After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them,’ Schumer said. ‘We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem — health care reform.’

“The third-ranking Senate Democrat noted that just about 5 percent of registered voters in the United States lacked health insurance before the implementation of the law, arguing that to focus on a problem affecting such ‘a small percentage of the electoral made no political sense.’

“The larger problem, affecting most Americans, he said, was a poor economy resulting from the recession. ‘When Democrats focused on health care, the average middle-class person thought, “The Democrats aren’t paying enough attention to me,”‘ Schumer said.”

The key word in that passage appears twice, but it isn’t “health care.” It’s “middle class.” The Democrats have a middle-class problem.

They don’t like to hear this, but it’s true. Consider the way another liberal, Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, put it in a recent piece about why the white working class (WWC) backed the GOP by a 30-point margin in this year’s midterms. The answer, Drum supposes, is that these voters are angry about the stagnating economy:

“So who does the WWC take out its anger on? Largely, the answer is the poor. In particular, the undeserving poor. Liberals may hate this distinction, but it doesn’t matter if we hate it. Lots of ordinary people make this distinction as a matter of simple common sense, and the WWC makes it more than any. That’s because they’re closer to it. For them, the poor aren’t merely a set of statistics or a cause to be championed. They’re the folks next door who don’t do a lick of work but somehow keep getting government checks paid for by their tax dollars. …

“And who is it that’s responsible for this infuriating flow of government money to the shiftless? Democrats. We fight to save food stamps. We fight for WIC. We fight for Medicaid expansion. We fight for Obamacare. We fight to move poor families into nearby housing.

“This is a big problem because these are all things that benefit the poor but barely touch the working class.” (emphasis original)

Anger may be the right emotion, but I think he’s misdiagnosed its cause — and undercounted the group of people who fit into the category by limiting it to whites without a college degree.

When I talk to the people who express the kind of thoughts about welfare that Drum describes, they aren’t only white, they aren’t only those without college degrees, and they aren’t “angry” at “the poor.” They’re angry that they have played by all the rules they were given when they were young — get an education, work hard at a job, raise a family, etc. — and they have stopped getting ahead, if they ever were.

These people, many of whom do vote Republican, look askance at two groups: the wealthy who are getting ahead, and what Drum calls the “undeserving poor.” (That’s an inapt phrase, actually: What I think he means is they are deserving of being poor and undeserving of the benefits they receive.) And in both cases, they resent the laws, and the politicians who made them, that have disproportionately helped these groups. This is the essence of the tea party, which railed against Wall Street bailouts just as much as against spendthrift welfare programs.

Here’s the difference: While these people resent Wall Street bailouts, and loopholes and crony capitalism that benefit the well-heeled and well-connected, they recognize and respect the contributions the wealthy made along the way. They understand — contra populist-mode Hillary Clinton — that corporations create jobs, because many of them work at one of those corporations. They recognize that corporations generally have humble roots in entrepreneurship, and they want to see more success stories, not fewer. They just don’t want the Microsofts, Googles, Boeings, etc. of the world to use that financial power to rewrite the rules in their favor. They blame Republicans in large part for collaborating in that effort. And a lot of Republicans understand this and have been preaching a center-right version of populism; see the talk about defunding the Ex-Im Bank, attacking subsidies for green energy firms, and lowering payroll taxes for working families, among other things. You can expect this to be a major theme in the 2016 elections — unlike in 2012, when the GOP harped on President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment but didn’t offer more than that to those who aren’t entrepreneurs but rather work for them (or the companies they built).

But these people have no such recognition or respect for the “undeserving poor,” or what others have called “moochers.” As Drum notes, this does not encompass all of the poor; there is a distinction. Many of these people give their time and money to what I will call by way of distinguishing them (with my earlier objection to the phrase still in place) the “deserving poor.” But they know all too well that there are plenty of people on the dole who could be contributing instead, and they resent that without any of the mitigating factors I described for those at the other, upper end of the income scale.

Yet up to and including last month’s election, Democrats showed no understanding of, much less sympathy for, their attitude. In fact, Democrats were more apt to tell them they already cared for these people. Didn’t we pass Obamacare for you? Never mind that, as Schumer indicated, the response from these voters was, No, you most certainly did not pass Obamacare for “me.”

So the importance of Schumer’s speech depends on the degree to which he was speaking for other Democrats and/or can talk them into sharing his belief. I have long thought the Senate Democrats would have been much more formidable — and successful in both policy and politics — had Schumer been majority leader rather than the feckless, cynical Harry Reid.

Chances are, I will still disagree with much of what Schumer would prescribe for the problem. But at least he understands the problem.

Reader Comments 0

114 comments
blah blah blah
blah blah blah

Funny how Chuck Schumer has had a change of heart concerning the Obama's policies & administration.  Oh wait, he's up for election in 2016...  Maybe he's afraid of the stupid American voters lashing out at him & his actions.  Boy the skin color changes fast when caught in bed with the wrong party.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Some may find the talk about “undeserving poor” somewhat confusing, but with the help of Kyle article on November 20, 2014, the picture becomes more clear, especially with regard to the Republicans’ view of the meaning of that expression. Kyle explains that it means people who “are deserving of being poor and undeserving of the benefits they receive.”


As we have seen in the data presented by Kyle November 20, some of the most important benefits, those of Obamacare, are to go to the people in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. Therefore, from the above Kyle’ explanation, many of those people, who work for lowest incomes, deserve to be poor.


That, of course, is the standard right-wing spiel, that it is the fault of the poor people that they do not earn more. Naturally, it cannot be that they are simply paid too little by their employers. If they only studied more, worked harder, and were smarter, they would move into those higher brackets, and will not need any “benefits.” If they all did that, one must wonder, who would do the work these people do now?

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Captain-Obvious @MarkVV 

Very funny, writing this as a comment to an article, in which Kyle has been telling us what Schumer and Drum wrote and what it means.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I agree with the idea that many "working class" lower middle class folks begrudge the assistance given to the very poor who do not work.  And I agree that they give a pass to the uber wealthy, but I disagree on the why.  You see, those working class poor REALLY THINK THEY will one day be one of the wealthy.  They think if they just work harder--pow--it will be theirs as well.  So do many on the next rung up.


Folks, IT AINT GONNA HAPPEN!  As long as the wealthy run the game, there will NOT be significant upper mobility!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Captain-Obvious @Wascatlady I believe there was a time when the wealthy did much of their own work, and profited from it, rather than sucking the life out of the workers and then scorning them for not being wealth.

RantNRave
RantNRave

"Obozo and fringe-left Democrats play the middle class for suckers."


LILLLL BARRY


YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO WORRY ABOUT LIL BIDDY..............


THE ONLY WAY YOU WOULD BE IN THE MIDDLE IS THAT YOU STOOD


IN BETWEEN  TWO BILLIONAIRES.


heheheheheheheheheeeeheee

SueEllenEwing
SueEllenEwing

Good luck with  the republicans doing any better.  Sigh.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Many in the Democrat party do care about the middle class, but Obozo most certainly does not.

Obozo cares about the people at the very bottom and about buying their votes with handouts and non-stop bashing of the productive.

And Obozo cares about the people at the very top who finance Democrat politics.

Obozo and fringe-left Democrats play the middle class for suckers.

Gov-waste
Gov-waste

Interesting the Dems are breaking ranks with Obama when it comes time to get re-elected. Do they think we are stupid?  

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- One in three Americans say they have put off getting medical treatment that they or their family members need because of cost. Although this percentage is in line with the roughly 30% figures seen in recent years, it is among the highest readings in the 14-year history of Gallup asking the question.


 http://www.gallup.com/poll/179774/cost-barrier-americans-medical-care.aspx


Well, so much for Hot Air.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Talking about a junk insurance policy, here is the result of Obamacare.  From hotair.com


One in three Americans say they have put off getting medical treatment that they or their family members need because of cost. Although this percentage is in line with the roughly 30% figures seen in recent years, it is among the highest readings in the 14-year history of Gallup asking the question.

Since 2001, Gallup has asked Americans each November if they have put off any sort of medical treatment for themselves or their families in the past 12 months. Last year, many hoped that the opening of the government healthcare exchanges and the resulting increase in the number of Americans with health insurance would enable more people to seek medical treatment. But, despite a drop in the uninsured rate, a slightly higher percentage of Americans than in previous years report having put off medical treatment, suggesting that the Affordable Care Act has not immediately affected this measure. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Once somebody starts by calling introducing Obamacare “destroying the system,” while admitting that the system did not work well for 15% of Americans (“merely” about 45 million), you know immediately that there is little hope for a rational debate.


Hard to have a rational discussion with someone who thinks that a system that now works for and is affordable for 20 % of the folks, most who receive subsidies, is better than a system that worked for 85% of the folks.  This is Proggie logic on display.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@RafeHollister  " is better than a system that worked for 85% of the folks. "


But it didn't work for 85 percent. The old system WAS TERRIBLE.


We spent twice as much as any other country and got worse results....Who was that working for ?


Besides the people who were profiting from it ?


How could anyone defend that system as efficient ?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Captain-Obvious @HeadleyLamar @RafeHollister http://www.gallup.com/poll/8056/healthcare-system-ratings-us-great-britain-canada.aspx


The healthcare systems in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain provide interesting comparisons to one another, especially since the U.S. system is considered private and Canada and Great Britain each have national health systems that supply universal coverage.


One-fourth of American respondents are either "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with "the availability of affordable healthcare in the nation," (6% very satisfied and 19% somewhat satisfied). This level of satisfaction is significantly lower than in Canada, where 57% are satisfied with the availability of affordable healthcare, including 16% who are very satisfied. Roughly 4 in 10 Britons are satisfied (43%), but only 7% say they are very satisfied (similar to the percentage very satisfied in the United States).

Looking at the other side of the coin, 44% of Americans are very dissatisfied with the availability of affordable healthcare, and nearly three-fourths (72%) are either somewhat or very dissatisfied. The 44% in the United States who are very dissatisfied with healthcare availability is significantly higher than corresponding figures in either Canada (17%) or Great Britain (25%).


Care to revise your statement ?

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

@HeadleyLamar @Captain-Obvious @RafeHollister The veterans were "satisfied" with their care even when it killed them. Same old tired gruberish, who knows what questions were asked in that poll and who gave answers to those questions.


A new poll finds that three-fifths of likely voters support the repeal of Obamacare.  A large plurality — 44 percent — wants to see Obamacare repealed and replaced with a conservative alternative. A much smaller group —16 percent — wants to see it repealed but not replaced. Less than one in three respondents — 32 percent — would like to keep Obamacare, whether in its current form or in amended form.


That's^^ because they like it so much, uh huh.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@IReportYouWhine @HeadleyLamar @Captain-Obvious @RafeHollister http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-03-12/americans-stick-with-obamacare-as-opposition-burns-bright.html


Your right...They do love it.


President Barack Obama’s health-care law is becoming more entrenched, with 64 percent of Americans now supporting it outright or backing small changes.


Fifty-one percent of Americans favor retaining the Affordable Care Act with “small modifications,” while 13 percent would leave the law intact and 34 percent would repeal it. That’s the highest level of public acceptance for the law yet in the Bloomberg poll.


Eventually real Americans are seeing past the lies fo exploding premiums and Death Panels. 



FORWARD !!!!

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

@HeadleyLamar @IReportYouWhine @Captain-Obvious @RafeHollister From your link-


Given the problems with the new law, 30% of Likely U.S. Voters still think Congress should repeal it entirely and start over again. But a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 52% prefer instead that Congress go through the law piece by piece and improve it. Just 13% want to leave the law as is.


Whoo boy, with support like that^^ I'd sure hate to see what would happen if they were against it.


Like you losing Congress, oh, wait.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@IReportYouWhine @HeadleyLamar @Captain-Obvious @RafeHollister But a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 52% prefer instead that Congress go through the law piece by piece and improve it. Just 13% want to leave the law as is.


Exactly...IN other words NOT REPEAL.


Real Americans have seen through the Death Panel lies. 

MarkVV
MarkVV

@RafeHollister 

Rafe, ,please provide the evidence that the system now "is affordable for 20% of the folks." And without even waiting for such "evidence," I call it a preposterous nonsense.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@consumedconsumer

I don't know any conservatives that want to roll back the clock.

Apparently, you have tradition confused with time.

I also have not met a conservative that does not want the Obama nightmare over.  I believe that would be leaping ahead, not back.

Tiberius-Constitutionus
Tiberius-Constitutionus

@JohnnyReb The "Obama nightmare"?  Hmm.  I think the DJIA would disagree with you.  So, too, US GDP.  And the US unemployment rate.  


But OBL probably agrees with you.  So I guess you're in good company. :)

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@JohnnyReb I don't know any conservatives that want to roll back the clock.


I do....Lots of em.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

 For nearly 20 years, Darrell Eberhardt worked in an Ohio factory putting together wheelchairs, earning $18.50 an hour, enough to gain a toehold in the middle class and feel respected at work.

He is still working with his hands, assembling seats for Chevrolet Cruze cars at the Camaco auto parts factory in Lorain, Ohio, but now he makes $10.50 an hour and is barely hanging on.


http://www.dallasnews.com/business/personal-finance/headlines/20141129-falling-wages-at-factories-squeeze-the-middle-class.ece


$10.50? Hell, we got millions of new Mexicans here that will do that work for $5 an hour, plus obamacare.  


Thank You democrat party!

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@IReportYouWhine Wow


So you mean someone who used to make 18 dollars now makes 10


Im sure that is a totally unique situation. Sounds like he should have gotten an education. 

MHSmith
MHSmith

Class warfare from the right? LOL!

RantNRave
RantNRave

"What day would it be if the race card wasn't played by the uninformed . . . . ."


CAPTAIN OBVIOUS


BLACK PEOPLE DID NOT PICK THE GAME............................IT WAS DEALT 


BLACK PEOPLE DID NOT ASK TO COME TO YOUR "UNITED" STATES THEY


WERE BROUGHT HERE BY FORCE IN 1526.


SO THE CARD WAS DEALT OVER 400 YEARS AGO.


SO DON'T GET SO HIGH AND MIGHTY BECAUSE YOU PEOPLE CREATED


THE PROBLEM AND NOW YOU DON'T WANT TO OWN UP TO IT.....................


.



Reddawg74
Reddawg74

@RantNRave 

Nobody is begging you to stay here.  Go back.  I will buy your tickets.  Cheaper for me in the long run.

Reddawg74
Reddawg74

@RantNRave Rant if you honestly believe what you said then be mad at President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation (that's taught in history since you seem to know your dates) and the fact that the South lost the war.  I guess technically we "created" the problem.  DUMB A*S. 

Claver
Claver

I'm solidly middle class, but Obamacare certainly did not hurt me.  My premiums have increased, but not as much as they usually do. In fact, I am getting some benefits from Obamacare. Since I have kids in college, they will now get to stay on my insurance until they are 26.  That is a big plus for me and for lots of middle class folks.  The pre-existing conditions provisions also help a lot of middle class families. Finally, while the medicaid expansion and the insurance subsidies will not benefit me personally (unless something bad and unforeseen happens), they are not designed to benefit the non-working moochers either.  They primarily benefit the WORKING poor and the lower middle class. 

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

@Claver How exactly does keeping the kids on your health plan benefit you? 


If you've already got health insurance, how does the pre existing condition plan benefit you?


Your premiums "haven't increased as much as they usually do," so how does it feel to be the only AmeRican middle classer that can say this?


(I can spot gruberish from a mile away.)

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@IReportYouWhine @Claver I'm solidly middle class, but Obamacare certainly did not hurt me.  My premiums have increased, but not as much as they usually do


Same here...And this is the experience most americans are having....Not the lies of skyrocketing premiums and Death Panels they have told over and over. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@IReportYouWhine @Claver How exactly does keeping the kids on your health plan benefit you? 


If you've already got health insurance, how does the pre existing condition plan benefit you?


Asking those questions means you really don't understand how insurance works and confirms what Gruber was saying. 


Claver
Claver

@IReportYouWhine @Claver 1) It is free to me because I have another younger child that I am covering anyway and my "family" premium is the same whether I am covering 1 child or 3. Free (to them and to me) heath insurance for 4 or 5 years while they either go to grad school or try to get their careers up and running, seems pretty good to me.

2) I did not say the pre-existing condition plan benefited me.  I said that it helps "a lot of middle class families."  That being said, however, fifteen years ago, I was self-employed and really enjoyed it.  But, I gave it up in part because I could not get insurance coverage for my wife because of a pre-existing condition.  I might decide to do it again sometime, so now I have more options.

3) Maybe your employer does not know how to shop around or negotiate.  Self'-employed are you?

Claver
Claver

@IReportYouWhine @Claver 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, for employer sponsored plans: "Over the last ten years, the average premium for family coverage has increased 69% (Exhibit A).  Premiums have increased less quickly over the last five years (2009 to 2014), than the preceding five year period (2004 to 2009) (26% vs. 34%)."  http://kff.org/report-section/ehbs-2014-summary-of-findings/

So, I don't think I'm the only American that can say that my premiums are not going up as fast as they used to.