- - Monday, June 1, 2015

Honey, they’ve shrunk the middle class.

Americans feel they’re being pushed backwards, down from middle class incomes and living standards. They don’t base it on statistics like the horrid first quarter of our economy. People base it on their own perceptions. That makes it real.

In years past, America had abundant opportunity. We could and should have it today, but we don’t. The first stage has always been to reach the middle class and most of us believed we had reached it. From there people have a shot at moving up to even higher standards of living.

For a decade, over 60% of Americans told Gallup pollsters they consider themselves middle class. Today Gallup reports that has shrunk to 51%, while 48% say they are lower class or working class. Call it Paradise Lost.

What happened?

What caused this 10-point drop in people who feel they’ve achieved middle class? Government.

The issue is not income inequality. The issue is government suppression of opportunity. Offering public assistance programs as a substitute is a cover-up and a way to trap people into depending on big government.

What has government done or failed to do?

If you settle for low income, you are exempted from income taxes and receive a basketful of government assistance. Then taxes hit hard when you approach middle class. Plus you lose those public assistance benefits, including housing, health care, food stamps, and just plain cash. 

Welfare reform? Abandoned.

Also, runaway regulations raise prices, making it harder to make ends meet, as detailed by Americans for Less Regulation.

Failure to enforce immigration laws increases the number of low incomes in two ways. First, millions of illegal immigrants arrive here poor, although hopeful. Second, they drive down wages for everyone else, reducing upward mobility and making jobs harder to find for those who need them the most.

The bottom line is that government encourages low incomes while it punishes efforts to become self-sufficient.

Of course, liberals like President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton hob-nob with the rich while trying to shift blame away from themselves. They set up successful people as the scapegoats for the problems caused by government.

Creating jealousy is a common ploy by those who play the game of divide-and-conquer. But that game destroys opportunity for millions of Americans who want better and who deserve better.

Former Congressman Ernest Istook is president and founder of Americans for Less Regulation.

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