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Amy Traub

EFCA Setbacks: A Familiar Story of Corporate Power vs. The Middle Class

The Employee Free Choice Act is key to rebuilding the American middle classnews of Senators wavering in their support for the bill revalidates a key truth about Congress: the main stumbling block to strengthening and expanding the middle class is corporate power.

The same pattern emerges every year on Throughout the year, DMI uses the site to share analysis about the impact of Congressional legislation on Americans’ ability to gain – and hold onto – a middle-class standard of living. Once a year, we take a step back and look at the big picture. It often looks depressingly familiar: fiscal conservatives notwithstanding, Congress does fairly well when it comes to measures that simply involve spending more, but falls short – often far short – when powerful corporate interests clash with the wellbeing of the nation’s current and aspiring middle class.

In 2008, for example, Congress stood up for the middle-class on issues like providing more funds to higher education and passing a consumer safety bill that’s even been endorsed by the industry its regulating. Virtually all Democrats voted for these bills, and most Republicans as well. Similarly in 2007, college aid did well and majorities from both parties in the House voted for common sense contracting reforms.

But Congressional support for middle-class Americans falls off precipitously as soon as major corporate interests are at stake.

In 2007, the Peru trade bill was the skunk at the garden party, provoking 64 percent of Senate Democrats and 48 percent of House Democrats (along with nearly every Republican) to vote for multinational corporations and large investors at the expense of their middle-class constituents. Last year, it was a willingness to put banks before struggling homeowners, telecommunications companies before consumers, and those @%$& banks again before taxpayers. These weren’t the only policy disappointments of the year for middle-class Americans, but they were the main cases where significant numbers of Democrats joined nearly all Republicans in selling out the middle class.

This year, I fear Thomas Frank is right when he predicts the same fate for EFCA. Sure, Congress will approve health coverage for low-income kids (an important boost for aspiring middle-class families in its own right) but when it comes to standing up for middle-class Americans against a full-scale corporate lobbying campaign, Congress may not have the guts. That's terrible news for the middle class.

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Posted at 8:44 AM, Apr 23, 2009 in Labor |
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