If your Oreo didn’t have the sugary white middle, wouldn’t you notice? If, over time, your car tire middles collapsed, you would notice. So why for so long has our country’s middle been allowed to disappear without notice or correction?
Our present trade agreements have allowed large corporations to outsource too many of our manufacturing jobs. Low wages, no worker protection laws and very little quality control predominate in the countries to which our working middle-class jobs have gone.
The end result is twofold. We now have products coming into this country at alarming rates that have to be recalled due to insufficient regulatory monitoring of the materials used in these manufactured goods and foods. We also have joined in a global wage race toward the bottom.
The recent contracts between the UAW and GM/Chrysler/Ford are perfect examples of what is happening. Chrysler has already negotiated plant deals with Chery Motors in China while cutting its workforce here. All three have negotiated and agreed on two-tier wages and attrition programs to bring the pay scale and number of U.S. employees down.
Our economy is growing according to Wall Street. So is the distance between the corporate profit margin and wage/cost of living increases. Average Americans are being asked to take lower pay and live in an inflationary world; CEOs continue to take bonuses while cutting their domestic workforce.
Have our presidential candidates even noticed the missing middle?
Until and unless our elected officials reconstruct our trade agreements, requiring that the same regulatory quality standards be held for companies importing goods as we hold our own “Made in the USA” products, the working middle class will be missing.
Until we stop tolerating a working wage that is becoming increasingly less than a living wage, the working middle class will be missing. Until globalization no longer means we are required to become a country that cannot afford its own goods and services, America will have no middle.
Our democratically elected officials must be made to see the missing middle. Without its middle, our country no longer breathes democracy into its body. We no longer have a balanced society where life, liberty and pursuing happiness is not bought and paid for by the wealthy only. Without its middle, our country fails.
Robin Bouchard-Little (rbouchardlittle @aol.com) is a freelance writer from Ohio whose husband is an autoworker.
Attention Ohio readers: If you have a story to share, contact Rick Nagin, firstname.lastname@example.org, (216) 881-5350