Both Republicans and Democrats have always claimed to speak for the middle class, the backbone of the country. But in fact, the Republicans have by and large promoted policies designed to help the upper class, and the Democrats policies which helped the lower class (along with a few select cronies in the upper class).
As a result, the middle class has been squeezed from both ends. Blue collar wages are lower than they were 30 years ago, recent college graduates have had a much tougher time finding jobs than graduates in previous generations, and the percentage of the population receiving various forms of welfare (like food stamps) has increased, putting a strain on everyone else.
Obama's executive order on immigration -- which in the long run will only encourage more illegal aliens -- is just the latest nail in the coffin of the middle class.
Whichever party wants to truly help the middle-class will:
(1) Secure our borders, and not just pay lip service to that end.
(2) Abolish, or at least weaken, NAFTA (and the exporting of American jobs that has resulted in).
(3) Lower the corporate tax rate to the point where it is no longer economical for companies to do inversions. In the long run that will increase revenues from corporate taxes, the same way Reagan's lowering of personal income taxes resulted in more tax revenue.
(4) Make it less economical for companies based in the US to export jobs. Every time you phone the help department of a major company and are answered by someone speaking in an Indian or Filipino accent, that's a job which has been lost to an American. Every time you buy an article of clothing or computer which has been assembled abroad, that's another job lost to an American. If that requires tariffs, so be it.
And (5) balance the budget. In the long run, the only way for the US to escape its debt burden is to inflate its way out of it, and make no mistake, that is what will happen eventually. That hurts the middle class most. The rich, with their financial assets, have all sorts of ways of staying ahead of inflation. But the middle class, whose biggest asset tends to be the house they live in, do not. And the poor, who have almost no savings anyway, have no stake in ensuring that the dollar keeps its value.
I know I'm oversimplifying here, and I know that free trade has always been what's best for the world overall. But recently, more than ever, what's best for the world has not been what's best for this country, and it's time for this country to act in its own self-interest -- and the interest of the majority of its people.
China has four times the number of people in their military that we have in ours, but doesn't waste its manpower or money intervening in the civil wars of other countries, or "nation building," or trying to act like the world's policemen. And they have economic policies in place which benefit their country, period. That's why their economy has grown so much faster than ours in the past two decades, and thats why it's projected to overtake ours in the near future.
We are the only country in the Americas whose immigration policy is basically, "What can we do for you?" Every other country in this hemisphere asks, "What can you do for us?"
It's time for us to start acting more like our neighbors, and our competitors abroad. We can't afford not to.
Frankly, it doesn't look as if either party has the political will to do these things. But they are what needs to be done to save the middle class.
The more the middle class shrinks, the less the US will be like the US, and the more it will be like Latin America.