TheMiddleClassorg Rates The Ryan Budget Plan Thumbs Way Down

Isaiah J. Poole

TheMiddleClass.org, the website that evaluates legislation and congressional votes based on their impact on middle-class people, is being officially reintroduced today with a scathing indictment of the House Republican budget proposal for fiscal year 2012 drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan.

The resolution that Ryan has branded a "path to prosperity" is "a real ‘roadmap to ruin’ for both low-income and middle-class people," the website’s analysis says. "It catastrophically weakens the safety nets that seniors and other economically vulnerable people depend on for their basic needs, and it does the same to the stepping stones that millions of people depend upon to aid their climb up the economic ladder. At the same time, it would lock in lower tax rates for the wealthiest individuals and corporations, and would take insufficient steps toward ending billions in tax giveaways to corporations and the super-rich."

The website goes on to describe the Ryan budget’s impact on middle-class and aspiring middle-class people in the areas of health care, higher education, homeownership, jobs and tax policy. "Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget path leads us away from prosperity in all of these areas," the website concludes.

This has been a dismal year for the middle class in the House, based on what the site has posted so far. The site also has an extensive critique of H.R. 1, the 2011 budget bill that is at the heart of the government shutdown threat looming over the country. TheMiddleClass.org says the measure "represents the most draconian effort to cut programs that serve the needs of the middle class and the poor in recent history" and gives the House a grade of "D" for voting for it.

TheMiddleClass.org has been providing these ratings since 2007, when it was created by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, which had prior to creating the site published annual voter guides rating candidates based on their votes on middle-class issues. Last year, the site became a joint project of Progressive Punch and the Campaign for America’s Future.  Progressive Punch provides the roll-call vote information, most of the bill descriptions and the calculations that determine the letter grade each member of Congress receives. Writers at CAF provide "the middle-class position," the impact each rated bill would have on middle-class households.

The site operates on the proposition that strong working-class and middle-class households are the essential foundation of a strong economy, and that government policies should help these households attain economic security and ensure that there is both a safety net and a ladder upward for all Americans. America and its economy is at its best when workers have jobs with breadwinner-level wages, affordable health care, good education from kindergarten through adulthood, a fair economic marketplace and a secure retirement.

By the fall of 2012, TheMiddleClass.org will offer a full scoreboard for legislators in both houses of Congress, so that voters will have a clear way to hold their legislators accountable for the policies they favored. In the meantime, TheMiddleClass.org will be monitoring such developments as the spending deal that President Obama is trying to negotiate with House and Senate leaders. If that deal does harm to the pocketbook concerns of middle-class people, TheMiddleClass.org is poised to raise the alarm.

"Politicians love to proclaim how they’re fighting for the middle class," Joshua Grossman, president of Progressive Punch, said in an email message. "This website separates truth from fiction."

This website will also, I believe, be an effective and forceful voice for the millions of ordinary Americans who reject the corporate-driven ideology that is fueling the budget mania in Congress. We’ve seen for the past decade what happens when politicians bought and sold by millionaires and billionaires and their right-wing think tanks dictate what they think is "good" for the middle class—and end up giving the middle class declining wages, outsourced jobs, crumbling schools and infrastructure, an emasculated public sector,and regulatory cops straitjacketed and co-opted by the industries they are supposed to police. It’s time for another vehicle to expose this fallacy and to hold Congress accountable to meeting the real needs of real middle-class people. 

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