“We should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base?”


    With all due respect to Jim Webb, who I “drafted” and helped elect in 2006 — what the hell happened this morning? What ever happened to “We should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base?”  What ever happened to “Jacksonian Democracy” and “economic populism?” What ever happened to “the country is splitting into three pieces – the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, the middle class getting squeezed?” What ever happened to this kind of talk (at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner in October, 2007)?

    Last year I took great pains to outline the dangers in what I have come to call the “three Americas” – a serious breakdown of our country along class lines. What are those three Americas? We have seen a huge migration of wealth to the very top. We have calcified at the bottom into what could soon become a permanent underclass. And all the while the large group in the middle is receiving less than its fair share of the fruits of its labor.

    The top 1% in this country now takes in an astounding 21% of national income, up from 8% in 1980.

    One percent of the people own more than half of our stocks. Corporate profits in this country are at an all-time high as a percentage of national wealth. Today’s CEOs make 400 times more than the average worker – compared to 20 times the average when I graduated from college.

    In this same country, the United States of America, the middle class is being squeezed to the breaking point

    All of that remains true today, in fact the situation’s getting worse and worse every month that goes by. Which makes it all the more puzzling – and troubling, and maddening – that Jim Webb decided to vote this morning to hold middle class and working class tax cuts hostage to tax breaks for people making more than $1 million per year. Apparently, $1 million is now Jim Webb’s cutoff for where the the middle class – not to mention the “health of our society” –  should be measured. To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. Between this vote and Webb’s foot-dragging on ending “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (what ever happened to Webb’s social libertarianism?), I’m not a happy camper to put it mildly.

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