Election 2006
Whatever Happen to Family Values?

by Region 8 Webmaster John Davis

The midterm elections are rapidly approaching on November 07, 2006 and this year the terrorist flag is being sent up the flagpole and waved by the powers that be. They want to scare Americans into allowing them to continue their assault on the working class in this country. This is quite a departure from the venomous lies they told in 2000, 2002 and 2004, when they touted their “family values” as a reason for checking that election box. But, what happened to “family values”? Where are “family values” today and just what impact have the ruling body had on “family values” in this country?

If we step back and take a long look at where “family values” are today we will find the value of WORKING families have diminished greatly under the current Republican rule. All across the country working class Americans are struggling to keep their families above water in the wake of the constant barrage of anti-worker, anti-family legislation this Republican Administration has cascaded down upon the middle class. Now, with the midterm election upon us they think they can make us forget these attacks by screaming “terrorism” at the top of their lungs. Evidently they think a few so-called “alerts” and “warnings” can make the working class forget the situation they currently find themselves in.

Taking Stock of Family Values
When we look at “family values” from a real world perspective, there is a list of issues that can determine just what the value of our family experience is. Basic necessities in marking the “value” of a family include:
- Jobs/wages
- Health care
- Education
- Cost of Living
- Retirement planning
- Fair and balanced government
Taking these issues into consideration, we can judge just how successful the powers that be have been in preserving the values a family needs to survive.

According to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), working class families are fighting two related battles on separate fronts. The first is the stagnation of real wages for middle and income families and the second is the gap between income and productivity. There are multiple reasons for each of these issues, with the economic policies and trends being the driving culprit for each.

Real income – the amount of available spending capital – has fallen 3% between 2001 and 2004 (the most recent reporting data). For the average income household, in 2004 they saw a reduction of $1600 in available cash compared with 2001. From 1995 to 2000, those same families saw an increase in available spending capital of 2.2% a year. Working families have experienced this fall in income during a time when the productivity for the same group has risen 15% on average. So if working people have grown their productivity 15%, then why are their wages down?
Inequality of income is shown to be the major reason for a reduction in wages. In the EPI’s annual report The State of Working America trends for income distributions are stated. In 1979, the wealthiest 1% accounted for 39.8% of all capital income. In 2003 (the most recent data) that figure had grown to 57.5%. This shift is due to the distribution of income to capital rather than labor. In other words, the percent of the national income to profits rather than labor is significant to the trend to distribute the gains from these productivity improvements to executives rather than workers.

The administration has boasted about economic gains, but we must remember those numbers reflect the economy as a whole, where the gains have come to those at the very top while the rest have seen reductions. In 2004 the economy expanded by 4.2%, productivity grew by 3.4% and the bottom 90% of the income scale saw their income increase by 1.4% (before being adjusted for inflation). The remainder of the income increase was passed along to the 10% at the top. So in 2004 the bottom 90% saw an income boost of 1.4% while the inflation rate was 3.4% (keep in mind this was before the boost in fuel prices) so that meant families in the lower 90% saw a reduction of income of 2%.

In the 1970s-80s, more and more families became two income families. As more and more spouses entered the workforce, the number of jobs available declined. Plus, when a spouse enters the workforce families see additional cost through day care, cleaning services and such. During the current administrations term, overtime rules have been rolled back, health care coverage dropped, pensions eliminated and government regulations on cost have been removed (such as the ceiling on the interest rate that credit card companies can charge). These changes have required more hours in the workforce for less pay, greater individual responsibility for health care and retirement savings. Couple this with the Bush tax cuts that has been skewed toward the rich and you have a recipe for disaster. Capital gains (stocks, closely held businesses and non-residential property) account for a significant amount of the income to wealthiest citizens, and have seen a huge cut in taxes by the Bush Administration. This reduction in federal tax base occurred during a time when federal spending went through the roof with the War in Iraq. In addition astronomical tax breaks were given to energy companies that further weakened the tax base. This increase in the federal government debt lead to less assistance for state, county and city governments which meant higher sales tax that is covered at a greater extent by medium and lower income families. For example, a family making $1,000,000 a year may only spend $400,000 and as such only pay sales tax on that $400,000. A family making $35,000 a year may end up spending $40,000 just to survive meaning they are paying sales tax on about 110% of their income while the wealthy family pays sales tax on 40% of their income.

The median wage in Alabama has fell $3,006 since 2000. That is how Alabama families have faired under George Bush.

So, if we consider that wages have risen under the rate of inflation, that tax burdens have been shifted from the wealthy to the working class and that employers have used the surplus job market to drive down wages and benefits, then we begin to see the falling value of working families.

Health Care
The United States spends more on health care than any country on the face of the Earth. However, 16% of 45.8 million people have no health care coverage. Employer provided health care is down to 55.9% of the population and those who have it have seen substantial increases in their cost for that care. The President thinks Americans are over insured and back in May the Department of Energy issued a ruling that the federal government would no longer reimburse health care benefits for employees of contractors they considered “above market rate.” Essentially this means that any governmental contractor must reduce the health care coverage provided for their employees.

This year Bush proposed a new “Health Care Savings Account” plan that places those with employer covered health care at risk. The President’s plan would offer a “tax break” for savings accounts to cover individualized health insurance. A recent study showed that if this flawed idea was passed as many as 350,000 workers who now have health care coverage could see that coverage dropped.

This idea would be as huge of a failure as the Medicare Prescription Drug Deal. A recent Congressional study proves this bill has actually raised the cost of prescription drugs for seniors. The President’s plan shifted prescription drug coverage to private companies, and eliminated Medicare’s ability to negotiate prices for drugs. This plan saw drug prices 80% higher than those that had been negotiated by Medicare, 60% higher than over the counter cost in Canada and 3% higher than simply purchasing the drugs outright from national retailer Costco. As a result seniors are paying more now than they were before, more and more health care plans that featured prescription drug coverage dropped prescription drug coverage “because enrollees could now utilize the Medicare plan”, the federal governments cost for drugs skyrocketed without the ability to negotiate and seniors ended up with costly monthly payments for a plan that actually raised their expense. So if consumers pay more and the government pays more, who actually made out in the deal? Pharmaceutical companies - that’s who. By the way, these are the same companies that led Republican donations in both the 2000 and 2002 election cycles.

The Leave No Child Behind Act has been another failure in an administration that is marked by failure. This governmental albatross has placed millions of dollars in cost to school systems without improving education. The Federal Government added all this additional testing to schools, without properly funding the cost. As a result, local school systems had to cut funding to programs for the gifted, after school programs for latch key children and other needed programs. Bush still is intent on instituting his “school voucher” plan to further shift funding from public to private schools.

Cost of Living
In a climate where working families income is deteriorating, the cost of living is going through the ceiling. Credit card debt has become a major issue for working families, because more and more are relying on them to make the ends meet. Two years ago a bankruptcy reform bill was passed that went into affect last fall (just days after the Delphi bankruptcy was filed). One of the reforms in that bill was to stop a person’s ability from filing bankruptcy over credit card debt. However, about year before that a bill was passed that removed the ceiling on the interest rate that credit card companies can charge. This bill paved the way for credit card companies to charge loan shark rates, while filling a working class person’s mailbox each week with applications for cards. Then again, we must remember that credit card mogul MBNA America was the largest single corporate contributor to George Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.

While we are on the subject of contributors, what about the big energy companies? Last year an $8,000,000,000 tax break was given to energy companies. This in a time when record profits are rolling in and gasoline prices went through the roof. When prices hit a record high in July, President Bush stated there was nothing the government could do. However, when his approval ratings began to drop so did the price of oil. Most everyone agrees that oil prices will go back up after the elections.

Pensions is another area that working people know all too well how this administration has backed the corporate terrorism we face. We at Delphi are definitely aware of the issue. If it were not for the UAW, the pension we have earned would be gone. Even with union protection, the courts would love to give our pensions away. “W’s” buddy Kenneth Lay stole millions from his employees pension plan at Enron and died before he could pay the penalty. Now, his lawyers are trying to get his conviction vacated because he had intended to appeal to prevent the workers from suing his estate.

Fair and Balanced Government
In both 2002 and 2004, the Religious Right campaigned for the Republicans pushing the idea of appointments of federal judges based on “faith based decisions.” The result has been a number of judicial appointments of right winged judges who have exercised their faith – faith in corporate America. Just ask the 23,000 UAW members at Delphi and the rulings by George Bush appointed Federal Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain. Judge Drain continues to allow executive compensation plans that pour millions in bonuses to the top executives at Delphi while supporting the corporation’s intention to slash workers wages.

Recently a federal judge ruled that the Bush’s Administration’s wire tapping policy was illegal he responded by saying “We will just appeal that decision to one of OUR judges” as if he answers to no one.

He expects his “faith based judges” to hold up decisions on torture and denial of basic human rights at his secret CIA prisons around the world. Bush appointed Charles Pickering to the 5th Federal Court during as a “recess appointment” to keep Congress from voting on him. Pickering is a managing member of an oil and gas exploration company in Mississippi and a partner in his father’s oil business. By the way the 5th District covers three oil producing states and Pickering hears dozens of cases concerning oil and energy industries. It is safe to assume that we all know which way he will lean on cases concerning oil companies.

The Value of Working Families
“Yes, but all these items are things George Bush has done and he does not have to run during this election, so why should we care?” you may ask. Remember, the President doesn’t have the power to pass this legislation alone. He needs the help of the Congress and the Senate to get bills passed. While President Bush has rained considerable damage to the value of working families in the past six years, he is by no means done. Recently he has been on the campaign trail stumping for the Republicans and he states at every stop he is more work to do. Some of his agenda items that are mentioned each speech include repealing the estate tax so the wealthiest 1% can see even further savings on taxes, privatizing Social Security to make certain that working class Americans have no return on the investment they have made and implementing a school voucher system that further reduces the available funds for our public schools while again sticking a little extra in the pocket of the rich. However, other items that Bush wants to pursue but keeps quiet about include taxing your health care benefits, starting another war, this time with Iran and adding even more ill fated trade deals with Thailand, plus expanding NAFTA and CAFTA to the entire southern hemisphere.

The value of working families is much too important to allow the continued reign of corporate terrorism we have experienced over the past six years. This election day, make certain that you cast your ballot for candidates whose family values are not limited to rich families. The existence of the middle class is at stake.


Other Essays By John Davis

The Fox In The Spin House

Dr. King - Remembering the Dream and the Dreamer

12 Miners Found Dead In Mine Explosion

The School of the Americas Vigil: One Member's Perspective

The Delphi Dilemma

Informational Picket Clears Muddy Waters At Delphi

Giving Thanks

CAFTA: A Tale of Two Horses

Dirty Little Secrets - Dirty Little Lies - The School of the Americas

“Happy Hippos” Enjoy Tax Breaks

Voting - Your Right - Your Privilege - Your Duty

Labor Day 2003: The Struggle Continues

A Matter of Faith

Buying Power? Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Putting The
"Labor" Back In Labor Day

We Remember 911

UAW Supports Locked Out Local 1832 Members

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