The first decade of the 21st century was tough on the middle class in America. From 2001 through 2007, median household incomes actually fell after accounting for inflation. And as wages stagnated, huge costs such as health care and higher education continued to rise dramatically. And this was even before the onslaught of the Great Recession, which destroyed almost $20 trillion in wealth and nearly 9 million jobs. As a result, from 2007 to 2009, income for the median American household dropped by more than 4 percent, the largest two-year decline in 35 years.
The deep recession also dramatically exacerbated an already hefty federal budget deficit. Now, Republicans in the House of Representatives are trying to solve the latter problem—the federal budget deficit—by making the former one—a middle class still struggling to keep its head above water—even worse.
Their plan is to reduce government spending on a tiny slice of the federal budget, including many programs on which middle-class Americans depend heavily but which the wealthy can easily live without. For most American families, this will mean more financial pain than they can easily bear after the struggles they experienced over the past decade.
The spending bill passed by the House, known as House Resolution 1, or H.R. 1, for fiscal year 2011 ending September 30, would slash funding for a wide range of activities that middle-class families rely on—services such as inspections of food, drugs, and consumer products; road building; mass transit; public elementary and secondary education; workplace safety; and law enforcement. Of course the government provides these services to the advantage of everyone—rich, poor, and middle class alike—but it is only the rich that can afford to buy their own replacement services should the government be forced to stop providing them. The rich will be able to shrug off the new costs but the middle class will feel them quite keenly.
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