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Chelsea Green Blog

Income Disparity and the Health Care Debate: Take Back the Rhetoric!

By R.J. Ruppenthal

From the Community Blogs.

 
We need to take back the rhetoric in the health care debate and in everything else. The middle class has been lost in this debate or misled into these stupid Tea Parties, and the lower class has no voice at all. The bottom line on social policy and economics is that the rich keep getting richer and everyone else is getting squeezed. The area where I live and work used to be a bastion of the middle class, but a study recently showed that jobs paying between $30,000 and $80,000 are disappearing. That is (or was) the middle class. No doubt you know that the Top 5% or so of the population possesses more wealth than the other 95% of us. That number has gotten worse, because just a few years ago those same statistics used to say 10%/90%.

Check out this similarly disturbing set of figures on income disparity over time, for which I am indebted to the Five Cent Nickel site. This is based on historical Federal Reserve data. The “mean” is the average, whereas the “median” is the line dividing the top of the sample from the bottom half:

1960: Median = $8,690; Mean = $10,420 (Median is 83% of mean.)
1976: Median = $13,549; Mean = $16,893 (Median is 80% of mean.)
1982: Median = $19,446; Mean = $26,259 (Median is 74% mean.)
2004: Median = $93,100; Mean = $448,200 (Median is 21% mean.)

Translation? Granted, the 2004 numbers include inflated real estate, which drives up peoples’ paper net worth. But the bottom line is that a few SICKENINGLY rich people are distorting this in a very bad way. Shame on any of them for opposing health care as a universal right for all Americans. And shame on the big insurance companies and right wing for misleading everyone into believing in the false dilemma of the middle class: that health care means higher taxes and Soviet-style services. Somebody needs to pay for it, you say? I know just who can afford it, and taxing them won’t cost you a dime.

These same people blame unions for being greedy. Public sector unions are blamed for pushing for more tax dollars for the government employees they represent, bankrupting the states. Private sector unions are blamed for driving up costs, and driving companies overseas. Auto workers unions are blamed for causing the demise of Detroit and of American manufacturing. Well, guess what? Unions helped create the middle class. Now the middle class has been outsourced and unions have less power than ever. But someone else is laughing all the way to the bank. And trying to pit the rest of us against one another. But I ain’t buying it, and neither should you.

Take back the rhetoric. Remind people that the super rich in this country have cashed out the middle class, and that they can darn well afford to pay for health care, middle class employee benefits, school lunches for poor kids, student loans for college students and anything else we think we need. Health care, housing, and a good education should be universal rights for all Americans, and they are quite affordable through higher taxes for the rich.


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