Throughout the last two weeks of political conventions, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and a vast array of surrogates accused their opponents of gutting the American middle class.
Paul Ryan and Bill Clinton did it blatantly. Michelle Obama and Ann Romney did it subtly. And all speakers tried to portray themselves as in touch with the middle class, from the Romneys eating “lots of pasta and tuna fish” to Barack Obama’s proudest possession being “a coffee table he’d found in a dumpster.”
In the process, though, both parties gave politically skewed definitions of the middle class, simplistically blamed each other for its struggles and presented pat solutions for the complex problems it faces.
In Republican oratory, the middle class consists of small-business owners who are being crushed by taxes, regulation and a bloated government. In truth, only about 11 percent of American heads of household are self-employed.
In Democratic speechifying, the middle class is made up of hard-working teachers, police officers and union members being laid off by miserly Republicans. Yet those Americans, however hard they work, depend on successful businesses and banks for their prosperity.