On August 4, 1981, two things happened. My beautiful daughter Robin was born. And Ronald Reagan fired the Air Traffic Controllers. In the ensuing 30 years, the rich have become much richer, the poor have become poorer, and the middle class has shrunk. If we were to continue in this direction indefinitely, we would eventually lose our middle class.
We simply cannot allow that to happen.
My dad always said that the reason for our vibrant democracy is because we have a strong middle class. I didn't understand what he meant, but I get it now. When people lose faith, and when they lose hope, they stop voting. When that happens, corporations swoop in to take over. We saw that clearly and sadly in the last election. Now it is clear that the results of that election are taking us further in the wrong direction.
In Wisconsin, the governor thinks he can eliminate collective bargaining for most public employees, even though we now know that collective bargaining is not the cause of budget deficits. We also know that collective bargaining helps, not hurts, our educational systems.
He claims to be trying to solve the budget deficit. Fact is, the unions have agreed to cut their own benefits to help their state. But that's not enough for Governor Walker. He wants to break unions and further shrink the middle class. interestingly, he did not try to go after fire fighters and police officers, who donated to his campaign.
In Michigan, Republicans promised it over and over. "No new taxes. Our families are struggling and simply can't afford it." Now that they have taken power, what is the first thing they want to do? Raise taxes on our poorest working families by eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which not only helps families, it stimulates the economy. Even Ronald Reagan loved the EITC. Apparently, Republican concern for working families has been thrown to the wind in their glee to protect the corporations that funded their campaigns.
Across the country, Republicans have boldly stepped up their plan to ruin the middle class and continue to put the wealth of our country in the hands of a few people.
But now there is hope at the end of this long, dark tunnel. "It is as though a sleeping giant has awoken," said Pat Guillan in a post to this blog.
And a sleeping giant has indeed awoken.
Over 70,000 people came out in Madison, objecting to Gov. Walker's dictatorial "I will not compromise," stand. Thousands more came out in Lansing and across the country to stand with them-- and with the courageous Senate Democrats in Wisconsin. Those senators refuse to allow a bill to end collective bargaining to sweep through Wisconsin's legislature.
You can feel it in the air. Hope has returned. We are taking back our democracy.
It will not be easy, but we can do it if we pack away our differences and stand together. In the end, we are still a democracy and the will of the people can prevail. But it will not be easy. Thousands of demonstrations across the country is a good start. We need to continue to peacefully demonstrate until Governor Walker resigns.
The long, slow slide of the middle class began 30 years ago. Let's make August 4, 2011 a bookend to that day. It will be the day we celebrate my daughter's 30th birthday. Let's make it a day for an even larger celebration, the new rise of the middle class.