As we enter the final weeks of the 2022 midterm elections, poll after poll shows that the most important issues facing the American people are the economy and inflation. This should come as no surprise.
As corporate profits soar, and as billionaires become even richer, working class Americans are falling further behind. This, sadly, is not a new reality. Tragically, despite huge increases in worker productivity, real inflation adjusted wages for American workers are lower today than they were nearly 50 years ago. During that period there has been a multi-trillion dollar redistribution of wealth that has gone from the middle class to the top 1 percent, and we now have more income and wealth inequality than at any time in American history. Unbelievably, CEOs of major corporations now make almost 400 times what their average workers make.
Given the economic pain facing working families, many voters are asking themselves which party will better fight for legislation that will improve life for ordinary Americans. As the longest serving Independent in the history of Congress, someone who caucuses with Senate Democrats, let me give you my best answer.
First, let me admit that the Democratic Party is far from perfect. Too many Democratic members of Congress have been unwilling to stand up to the big money interests that dominate Washington and fight for working families. That’s why we need at least 52 Democrats in the Senate.
But here is the simple reality: the Republicans in Congress are far worse when it comes to addressing the needs of the working class.
Let me give you some examples.
Right now, despite the reality that 55 percent of seniors are trying to survive on less than $25,000 a year, leading Republicans in the House and Senate are proposing to cut Social Security benefits, raise the retirement age to 70 or reduce cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for seniors by adopting a less generous formula. Most Democrats believe that we must expand Social Security benefits so that everyone in America can retire with dignity. Not a single Republican in Washington agrees.
The United States pays, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. I believe, and many Democrats believe, that we need to cut the price of prescription drugs in half by requiring Medicare to pay no more than the Veterans Administration does. Not a single Republican in Washington is prepared to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry and substantially lower the cost of prescription drugs. Almost every Republican in Washington voted against capping the price of insulin at no more than $35 a month.
Today, millions of seniors are unable to afford the outrageous cost of dental care, hearing aids or prescription eyeglasses. Most Democrats believe we need to expand Medicare to cover these essential health care services. Not a single Republican member of Congress agrees. Further there are many Republicans in the House and the Senate who support massive cuts to Medicare.
Universal Health Care
At a time when 85 million Americans are uninsured or under-insured, most Democrats believe that the U.S. should do what every other major country does and guarantee health care for all. Not a single Republican in Washington agrees. The last time Republicans controlled the Senate they came within one vote of throwing up to 32 million Americans off of their health insurance by repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Sixty percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and millions are working for starvation wages. Most Democrats believe that we must increase the federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. Not a single Republican in Washington agrees. In fact, many Republicans don’t even believe in the concept of the minimum wage.
We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of virtually every major country on earth. Most Democrats believe that we should cut the child poverty rate in America by more than 40 percent by extending the $300 a month per child tax credit to working class families that expired last December. Not a single Republican in Washington agrees.
Today, over 70 percent of the American people support unions. Most Democrats believe that if we are going to expand the middle class we must make it easier for workers to join unions and end the heavy-handed corporate tactics that make it hard for workers to unionize. Not a single Republican in Washington supports legislation to make it easier for workers to join unions.
At a time when inflation is a worldwide phenomenon (European Union- 10.1 percent, Germany-10 percent, UK-9.7 percent, Canada-7%, etc.), corporations are using the war in Ukraine, the supply chain crisis and the ongoing pandemic to jack up the price of gas, food, and just about everything the American people need. Many Democrats believe that we should enact a windfall profits tax on large, greedy corporations. Not a single Republican in Washington agrees.
A Fair Tax Policy
During the pandemic, while the billionaire class saw a $2 trillion increase in their wealth some of the largest corporations and wealthiest people in America did not pay a nickel in federal income taxes. Democrats voted to end that absurdity and begin the process of moving to a fairer tax system. Not one Republican voted to support that effort. In fact, at a time of massive wealth and income inequality, Republicans have proposed trillions of dollars in tax breaks for the most profitable corporations and wealthiest people in America.
In conclusion, let me say that it is no secret that many Americans are discouraged by what’s going on in Washington and are unhappy with both major parties. I got that. The answer, however, is not to make a bad situation worse by supporting candidates who will cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and give huge tax breaks to the rich. If we have any chance to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent, we must expand the Democratic majority in Congress and continue to push them to represent the needs of the working class, not the billionaire class.