With the economy still the most important issue facing the nation, President Obama appeared at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill to give his economic address. Stating that America has “fought its way back” from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the president put the Republicans in congress on notice to work with Democrats on common sense economic policy.
One common theme for all of President Obama’s economic messages has been the important role the middle class has played in bringing the economy to life. If you have a consumer based economy, consumers must be able to afford to consume. If the middle class isn’t able to purchase private goods, the economy can not move forward and will fall into another recession. While this might seem like common sense economics, many on the political right disagree with this message. Still pushing the tired and failed theory of “Reaganomics,” or supply side economics, conservatives preach that the wealthy must be given a break and their success will “trickle down” to the rest of the American people as time goes on.
One prominent voice who subscribes to this economic platform is conservative radio show host, Rush Limbaugh. Prior to President Obama’s speech, Limbaugh used his radio show as a platform to rip apart the American middle class, claiming that a strong middle class as never worked in stimulating the economy.
“The president is going to say that prosperity comes from the middle out. ‘Prosperity needs to come from the middle out rather than the top down.’ Never mind that this has never, not once, worked. It has never succeeded, this formula of the middle class leading the economic rebound. It’s not possible. The middle class benefits from it, but an economic recovery is not caused by the middle class. An economic expansion is not caused by the middle class. The middle class, by and large, are consumers.
In order for the middle class to consume to the level that economic growth takes place, they must be paid a lot of money. And in order for that to happen, the businesses where they work must grow. The places where they are employed must do well. They must be making more. They must have more customers they’re servicing. Whatever the enterprise is, it has to grow so that people working there earn more, get raises, get more benefits, and so that new people get hired. This idea that the economy bubbles up from below is absurd.
That’s what Obama’s gonna sell, though. Obama is gonna sell ‘we’ve gotta take more money from the rich and we’ve gotta raise taxes on businesses and we gotta get that money to the middle class where it will cause the economy to grow.’ That’s not how this happens. You start taking money away, just like the government takes from the private sector, the private sector shrinks. You take money away from the rich and business owners and entrepreneurs, you get less of what they do, including employment.”
Ever since Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president in 1980, Republicans have been running on the economic promise that the more the rich have, the more everyone else will have. By convincing Americans that they could soon be rich themselves, average low and middle income workers bought into the theory with dreams that they would soon be wealthy, so they must protect the best interest of their economic future. As the 1980s continued, the national debt had tripled, factories closed, jobs were sent overseas and the only people who saw any economic benefit were those at the very top.
During the 2012 election, President Obama defeated his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, whose campaign felt it’s final nail being hammered into it’s coffin when a secret tape was released of Romney calling 47 percent of the American people lazy, who relied on the government for free handouts. Rush Limbaugh, Mitt Romney and others who praise this economic outlook made popular by Ronald Reagan are fighting a losing battle that they don’t seem capable of winning any time soon.