As the middle class goes, so goes the nation

Recent actions by our elected officials in the North Carolina General Assembly have thrown into bold relief their true intentions towards the state’s middle class and economically challenged citizens. Like their counterparts at the federal level, our state lawmakers seem intent on appeasing their wealthy donors at the expense of the vast majority of their constituency.

The clearest sign of their indifference was the recent signing into law of a bill that will fund a state income tax rate cut by enacting a new sales tax in car and appliance repairs. Those changes, of course, will shift the tax burden from the wealthiest North Carolinians to the poorest, the ones who can’t afford to simply buy a new vehicle or appliance when their car/refrigerator develops problems.

It’s been pointed out elsewhere but it’s worth noting again: no attempt was made to tax fees for services such as lawyers, interior decorators, architects, pool cleaners, or accountants— in other words services which largely benefit the wealthy.

These are the same legislators who, just one session ago, eliminated the earned income tax credit while simultaneously stating they would never raise taxes.

The tax changes are just the most obvious of recent moves by the General Assembly that seem designed to benefit their wealthy benefactors. If Florida, South Carolina and Virginia are reliable examples, the push to privatize North Carolina’s Medicare system will both raise costs and limit care and services. Additionally, money that will be funneled away from public schools to state charter schools will place even more burden on our already under-funded education system.  As George Bush once asked, “Is our children learning?”

And let’s not forget the legislation that exempts businesses that voluntarily report environmental violations from civil penalties, while also reducing the number of air quality monitors and public access to information about air pollution.

The message from our little Mayberry Machiavellis could hardly be clearer: we’re going to protect ourselves and our wealthy allies, the rest of you be damned.

This is wealth redistribution and class warfare, plain and simple. The end goal seems to be to further the policies that have turned the middle class and poor of this country into little more than chattel, here to do the bidding of the rich until they are used up, at which point they are encouraged to die to make room for more worker minions.

And our corporate overlords have done an excellent job of keeping us mollified with the few crumbs they toss our way. They’ve learned how to keep us docile with TV, sports, and religion and at each others throats with “Hey, look over there!! issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and gun rights. And all the while we’re assured that the wealth is going to trickle down eventually, if we’re just patient, keep working harder for longer hours, and continue to support tax breaks for the wealthiest, who surely know better than we peons what’s best for our country.

The United States isn’t moving towards a plutocracy, we’re already there.  Our elected officials, Republicans and Democrats alike, have taken to heart a quote by the real Machiavelli: “A ruler can ignore the mob and devote himself to the interests of the ruling class.”

Unfortunately, I don’t see any answers emerging from our two party system anytime soon. The impetus, instead, will have to come from the very people who are most directly impacted by their actions. That, however, would require a level of commitment and cooperation among ordinary citizens that I’m not even sure is possible at this point.

In the meantime, our lawmakers should keep this in mind: without a strong American middle class this country’s financial and business institutions will simply grind to a halt, and no amount of wealth or influence will protect you from the consequences.

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