Yet again the cheerleaders inside the Bush administration have tried to put a positive spin on a weak economy and an even weaker dollar.
We are told that despite skyrocketing fuel and healthcare costs coupled with massive layoffs, the Bush economy is stronger than the Clinton economy. Comparing your economic plan to that of the President who ushered in NAFTA, CAFTA, and opened the floodgate of cheap, illegal labor from Mexico is less than awe inspiring. Facing the financial realities which most Americans deal with daily is quite sobering.
Ours has become nothing more than a consumer-driven economy, as the majority of manufacturing jobs have moved overseas. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest and most successful retailer now stocks its shelves with over 90 percent of foreign made goods. Apparently, Americans are more than happy to buy products made in China which once may have kept their local economy going. Most of us simply do not make the connection between purchasing foreign made goods and the almost weekly mass layoff announcements. Unfortunately, we are extremely short-sighted and easily excited over saving a few pennies while factories are closing.
In addition to losing good paying factory jobs, we have become a nation of debtors. While it may lift our spirits to purchase goods which we cannot really afford, eventually personal debt will finish off an already shaky middle class. According to the Consumer Federation of America, half of American households have amassed less than $1,000 in net savings, while the average amount of unsecured debt per household is now $9,000.
More than 90 million Americans are only making the minimum payment on their credit cards. At that rate, it will take 30 years to pay off the full amount. This year, a new law went into effect which requires debtors to double the amount of their minimum payment. That law was part of the Bush administration’s new bankruptcy bill. Unfortunately, it has simply caused more consumers to default on their debt and because of the new tighter restriction on filing personal bankruptcy--many consumers are now left with no protection from their creditors and are forced to sacrifice their homes. Bush basically allowed the banks and credit card companies to write the new legislation. While it has become much tougher for consumers to gain protection from creditors, it is still easy for big business to default on their financial responsibilities.
According to the Economic Policy Institute and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, today’s minimum wage is two dollars less in real dollars than it was 40 years ago.
The last time Congress raised the federal minimum wage was 1997. In those ten years, gas prices have increased by 140 percent, home heating oil prices have increased 120 percent, health care costs have increased by 45 percent, and housing prices have made the dream of owning a home simply out of reach for many working-class Americans. While Congress has chosen to ignore these factors, they have raised their own salary eight times since 1997.
The now Democratic House passed a bill to raise the minimum wage but the measure has stalled in the Senate and it seems to be business as usual.
Unfortunately, it seems that most conservatives have missed the boat on this issue. As a conservative, I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to become as rich as possible but that does not mean that you have to do it by starving the guy at the very bottom. We talk about family values all the time, making sure that working class families bring home a living wage has to be part of those values.
With soaring fuel prices, manufacturing jobs being replaced with low-wage service jobs, and spending more money than we actually have, a great number of Americans are at risk of sinking into poverty. Many of us have already adopted a ‘poor man’s mentality.’ In fact, according to a recent survey 27 percent of Americans now believe that their only chance of attaining real wealth is by winning the lottery!
With 269, the United States has more billionaires than any other country. However, in a nation of 300 million, it would seem that the majority of us are working very hard to make a handful of people rich, while working just as hard to make themselves poor.
We must elect a President who will adopt sensible economic policies and end the practice of raiding the U.S. Treasury for war profiteers. We must also be willing to adopt sensible economic policies in our own homes and place in check, the material lust that now have a stranglehold on so many of us.
The best financial advice I ever heard was this: Every month when you sit down to pay your bills...pay yourself first.