Magazine article USA TODAY

Who's Killing the Middle Class?

Magazine article USA TODAY

Who's Killing the Middle Class?

Article excerpt

"Saving is down; pensions are falling: and the Social Security system is a disaster waiting to happen. It is no wonder families are under pressure."

The American middle-class family is cited as the backbone of the nation by virtually everyone. Pres. Clinton called families "the foundation of American life" in his 1996 State of the Union address and proclaimed strengthening the institution the country's first challenge. The President's call to action is admirable, but he would accomplish more by addressing the reasons behind weakened families.

Many theories are offered to explain today's social angst. In fact, keeping track of all the culprits responsible for America's downfall is becoming difficult. Pres. Clinton's vilification of the "rich" easily comes to mind. Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole has pointed to Hollywood. Atlanta newspaper columnist Marilyn Geewax says it's greed. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton blames the free market system.

In The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Geewax states that we're working so hard because "We simply want more stuff." This belief, along with the Hollywood theory, are held widely. Mrs. Clinton reached the conclusion in June, 1996, that "business practices in this turbocharged capitalist society have a dramatic impact on the quality of our life together and our family life and on our children, more than anything government has done."

It is my view that government policies over the past 30 years--principally increased taxation and the transfer of income from families to a failed War on Poverty--have pillaged the middle class and bear substantial responsibility for the negative trends in, and current state of, America. The nation has reached a point where government, rather than helping the family, is undermining it.

In short, it'S not Hollywood that is causing an emptiness in the basic family unit. It's not because some families have a second car and a new deluxe kitchen or home theater, and it's not because we have a free economic society or some successful CEOs. Rather, it is the government itself, more than any other single force, that has stressed out middle-class America.

The road back is clear. We've got to let families keep more of the fruits of their own labor. This is why tax cuts must be part of any budget plan. However, reducing taxes represents a paring back of government intrusion that can be difficult to defend-until one gains a long-term perspective on what has been done to American families.

The American family enjoyed a fundamentally different relationship with the Federal government four decades ago. In 1950, the average family with two children paid a mere two percent of its income to the Federal government in taxes, or $800 from an income of $40,000. The family went about educating and feeding its children, purchasing and maintaining a home and transportation, and realizing family members' dreams with the fruits of their labor.

By 1970, direct Federal taxes as a share of median family income had risen to 16C7c. Or $6,400 from $40,000. Today, that same family pays 25%--$10,000--more than 10 times the 1950 level. The figure will jump to 33%--over $13,000--in five years following the current trend.

That's just Federal income tax, though. Don't forget state and local taxes, as well as the cost of regulations. According to the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, more than half the money Americans earn--52 cents of every dollar--is spent on taxes and regulations. That's laboring more than half the year before you can keep a dime of your own to put food on the table, a roof over your head, or a car on the road.

The Heritage Foundation reports the median-income family of four has lost $10.060 of its earnings solely to increased tax rates since 1948. This burden is the legacy of those in Congress, the Executive Branch, and the metastasizing bureaucracies who thought it best to take from the middle class to fund programs designed to alleviate the suffering of the poor. …

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