Fewer Americans describe themselves as being “middle class” some five years after the end of the so-called “Great Recession,” according to a January survey by the Pew Research Center, and truth be told, a huge part of that decrease is likely due to President Obama's signature piece of legislation.
First, the stats: Since 2008, the number of folks self-identifying as middle class has fallen by nearly a fifth, from 53 to 44 percent. Many of these people are former professionals who are now stocking shelves in grocery stores or working part-time retail gigs, if at all. Most are still seeking full-time work.
In addition, 40 percent now call themselves lower-middle or lower-class; that compares to just 25 percent in 2008, the survey said.
Meanwhile, a separate Gallup survey found that the percentage of Americans who described themselves as middle- or upper-middle class fell 8 points to 55 percent between 2008 and 2012.
Finally, the most recent General Social Survey, which was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, found that a wide majority of Americans who call themselves middle or working class was still high at 88 percent, but that figure too, is down – in fact, it is at its lowest in the survey’s 40-year history, falling 4 points since the recession began in 2007.
In the meantime, the gap between the nation’s poor and rich continues to yawn; the difference between income earned by the richest 5 percent of Americans and by median-income households has expanded by 24 percent over 30 years, the Census Bureau reports – but it has accelerated since the Great Recession.
So, what's this got to do with Obamacare? A lot.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said this week when asked whether she and fellow Democrats would run for reelection this year on their Obamacare record, dodged that question by responding that she and her party were proud of the law they alone passed, but that Democrats would now “pivot to jobs.”
That’s great; obviously, job creation is an important issue, as demonstrated by the steady decline in middle-class statistics. Besides, in survey after survey, it is one of the most important, if not the most important, issue to Americans. That said, congressional Democrats and President Obama have alternately pledged to “pivot to jobs” something like eight or nine times over the past five years, so if Pelosi is serious, it would be about time.
However, without reforming Obamacare, the quest to create more employment opportunities for Americans is dead in the water.
What is clear by now is that the U.S. economy has been transformed in a way that makes it nearly impossible to recover the employment opportunities that have been lost – and Obamacare’s mandates and costs for businesses are two of the major reasons for that. Sure, the so-called "employer mandate" - that provision of the law which requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to provide them with health coverage - might have been delayed by the president, but it's only temporary. Business owners know that, at some point in the future, the mandate will magically reappear and they will be forced to comply.
That has them spooked; in fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare is likely to cost the economy around 2.5 million jobs by 2024.
It is not odd that Pelosi should downplay the Democratic Party’s signature piece of entitlement legislation in a generation; it remains unpopular with Americans. But to now claim she and fellow Democrats will allegedly focus on job creation without proposing reforms to the very law that is making job creation more difficult is not just intellectually and politically dishonest, it is cruel in that it provides millions with false hope.
We’ll see in a few months if voters let them get away with it.