Another Voter Guide Flunks Congress On Serving The Middle Class

Isaiah J. Poole

TheMiddleClass.org Voter Guide is getting attention this week for its rating 200 members of Congress “zero” on a set of votes it deems reflective of the members’ stands on middle-class concerns. It turns out it was not alone in taking a dim view of the performance of the 112th Congress on kitchen-table issues.

The Institute for Policy Studies has released its own “Congressional Report Card for the 99%” that took an even broader look at how well Congress served the interests of the middle class and low-income people. Its verdict: 48 representatives and 11 senators received an “F” grade, and another 112 representatives and 24 senators got a grade of “D.” Sixty-four representatives and 14 senators received either an “A” or “A+.”

The report is alternatively called an “inequality report card,” and its intent is to look at Congress through the lens of whether votes on a particular bill served to either help eradicate or help worsen economic inequality. The guide’s authors explain in its overview:

Our growing economic divide in America did not just “happen.” No natural disasters or unavoidable dips in the business cycle have created our contemporary top-heavy America. We have become a fundamentally more unequal nation over recent decades largely because those who write the economy‟s rules have rigged those rules — to ensure that wealth and income flow to the top, at the expense of everyone else.

Congress — more than any other institution in American life — has responsibility for the rules that determine how our economy operates. Our lawmakers define tax and trade policy. They decide who gains and who loses when budget dollars get spent. They approve and disapprove the regulations that shape every aspect of our marketplaces.

Members of Congress, in other words, have the capacity to make sure that all Americans, not just a privileged few, share in the wealth that we all together create.

Some of the votes in the IPS report card are also in the TheMiddleClass.org voter guide, such as the House and Senate votes on extending the Bush tax cuts for people earning more than $250,000. But the report card also adds such votes as an attempt to add to a transportation funding bill an amendment that would end abuse of offshore tax havens, a major issue in the presidential campaign because of Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s extensive use of tax-avoidance strategies as the founder of the private equity firm Bain Capital.

“This new inequality report card offers America’s voters a new lens for scoping out the handiwork of the lawmakers who represent us,” the authors write. “Our hope: that Americans come to see the actions lawmakers take on our economic divide as a critically important indicator of our future well-being.”

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