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BADGERing THE MIDDLE CLASS: Wisconsin Following Republican Agenda

I don’t know why I’m shocked about what is going on in Wisconsin – Debbie and I have had some heated debates for sure.  But, I always come back to something my grandpa always told me…”We will always have ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in this country, but we will never have ‘have nothings.’”  My grandpa was from a poor immigrant family from Czechoslovakia.  His parents, my Bubba and Deado, didn’t speak much English.  They were strict and very Catholic.  Not super warm and fuzzy people.  The only thing my Bubba ever got choked up about was when she talked about America.  As a little girl, I would sit next to her and hold her hand and we wouldn’t have much to say to eachother, but she would tell me “my American boy work very hard, he make me very proud” (or something kind of close to that).  She would squeeze my hand hard.  She was so proud of my grandpa.

My grandpa was an o-kay student, not great, but he got by.  He worked on a family friend’s farm while he was in school to earn some money.  When he graduated from high school, he went into the US Army. He fought in WWII and was part of the greatest generation our country has ever known.  Want to know why? He credited the United States of America for the opportunities he received…an education, military training, government grants to buy his first farm.  When he came back from the war, he asked the government for a loan.  The family-friend that he used to work for backed his loan.  And, his future as a real-estate developer and very successful businessman began.  That is the American dream.  Our government gives us the opportunity to get educated and pursue our dreams…in exchange, we work hard and make our country stronger, so we can provide opportunity for future generations.

So, my personal diatribe is not unlike everyone else’s…ask your grandparents about growing up in America. We all have a common story.  Someone in our family came here with nothing. But, they had the opportunity to make a good life. An opportunity the country they came from did not provide. That is the American dream.  There is a nostalgia about the way it was…the way the middle class thrived.  Hard work was respected.  As a result, everyone thrived.  But, something has changed.  It’s not about providing opportunity anymore, it is about a shifting dynamic in priorities.  For years, we have traded hard work for a quick buck.  We have shifted the majority of the weath in our country to the top 1%, in hopes that they would pretty please let it trickle down.  How about working hard and earning a percent of company profits? Why give tax credits to employers in hopes that they just do the right thing by their workers?  The trickle down concept has failed miserably at the expense of the majority of Americans.  The reason? Greed.

We learned in the 80′s that “greed was good.”  What it did was send the message that 10% profits were not enough, 25% profits were not enough, 50% profits were not even enough…if greed is the gold standard, then let’s just give up on ethical boundaries altogether and have employers stuff their pockets, at the expense of workers.  Why not outsource manufacturing to countries that have deplorable working conditions and slave wages in favor of even more money?  Who cares if it hurts our communities and takes away jobs for the next generation? Why should we invest in that?  Why should we ensure the quality of the American dream for future generations when we can invest in other countries and make more short-term profits?  Why not come up with complicated banking schemes to offset any potential losses? Because if greed is good, of course, then nothing else really matters.

The problem is that greed only has a short-term payoff, because it ultimately erodes the foundation for future growth because greed only benefits some – the haves.  And, then the “haves” stoke the fear that the “have nots” want to take what they have…and the badgering begins.

Here’s the truth.  The American people are decent, good and fair. They are willing to work for a living wage. They are willing to pay their taxes.  They don’t resent the rich for being rich, they admire them. They don’t want what they have, they want the opportunity to work hard for what they themselves want.  They want a fair shake.  They want to have a roof over their head, food on the table, shoes on their kids’ feet and the opportunity to work hard for a fair wage and benefits.  They are policeman and fireman who protect us at great personal cost. They run into burning buildings and respond when we call 911. They are teachers who spend more time with our kids every day than we do.  They are nurses who take care of us when we are sick. They are the people who pick up our trash and clean our public toilets.  Do they get paid too much money?  Really? Is that really the question?  These people are living pay check to pay check because the cost of living in our country has gone up and their wages have stayed the same. They aren’t trying to take advantage of dire situation, they are trying not to be taken advantage of.  In a lot of cases, they have taken pay cuts and benefit cuts. These are services that most of us happily pay and would pay more to keep.  Our taxes are the lowest they’ve been in 50+ years, yet we have the most debt and are involved in multiple wars, so instead of increasing our revenue (taxes) modestly, we are once again going to take from the middle class. How much is enough?

In the meantime, the American people have bailed out the bankers who defrauded us and continue to pay themselves billions of dollars bonuses (investment bankers pay what % in income tax? capital gains tax? B of A paid how much in income tax last year? Exxon Mobile paid how much in income tax last year?). It’s ridiculous.  We continue to give tax breaks to the richest among us and exemptions for the poorest, so the middle class takes the hit. 50% of Americans can’t afford to pay taxes anymore?  Huh – why do we have that many people that have nothing?  And, large corporations that have billions of dollars in profits pay nothing to the federal government. What? So, where is the fairness?  There are different rules for the “haves” and the “have nots” in this country and if we let that happen, than there will be more people that have nothing.  And, that is an affront to the American dream and my children’s future.

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