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Late Night FDL: Moving towards the middle

The Drum Major Institute’s project released their report card on congressional support for the middle class today


With a U.S. Senator set to assume the presidency for the first time since 1960, and with an eye on the 470 other federal elections scheduled for November 4th, the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy (DMI) released “ 2007 Congressional Scorecard” today… On the positive side, the scorecard reflects an overall improvement in Congress’ support for the middle class, with 34 Senators and 199 Representatives receiving “A” grades. On the negative side, one-third of all Representatives and nearly 40% of all Senators earned “F” grades.

“The middle-class squeeze is a recurring theme among members of Congress, all of whom assert their interest in alleviating some of the burdens faced by the middle class and those struggling to earn their way into it. If that commitment was universally genuine, 99% of Congress would have received an ‘A’ this year. Clearly, that did not happen and it was the current and aspiring middle class who suffered for it,” commented DMI Executive Director Andrea Batista Schlesinger.

I won’t make you search for the spotlight quote (pdf)

As for the three top presidential contenders, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton each received an “A+” grade. Stunningly, Senator McCain was the only member of the Senate to receive an “incomplete” because he missed a majority of the graded votes. Even Senator Tim Johnson, who suffered a life threatening brain hemorrhage in December 2006 and did not return to the Senate until September 2007, managed to vote on 50% more pieces of critical middle-class legislation than did Senator McCain. “When it came to doing something about the middle class, Senator McCain simply wasn’t there for them,” said Ms. Schlesinger.

One of the problems with talking about middle class interests is that nobody can seem to figure out whose interests they are. I like DMI’s take on that

What Is The Middle Class?

The middle class is more than an income bracket. Over the past fifty years, a middle-class standard of living in the United States has come to mean having a secure job, the opportunity to own a home, access to health care, retirement security, time off for vacation, illness and the birth or adoption of a child, opportunities to save for the future and the ability to provide a good education, including a college education, for one’s children. When these middle-class fundamentals are within the reach of most Americans, the nation is stronger economically, culturally and democratically.

Most Americans identify themselves as middle class. Yet DMI is concerned not only with those who currently enjoy a middle-class standard of living, but also with expanding the middle class by increasing the ability and opportunities of poor people to enter the middle class. The middle class is strengthened when more poor people are able to work their way into its ranks. In a nation that is increasingly polarized between the very wealthy and everyone else, DMI sees the poor and middle class as sharing many of the same interests. Simply put: what strengthens and expands the middle class is good for America.

Or to put it another way, I got (at least some of) mine, but it’ll be worth more if you get yours. Our representatives in congress assembled, who have more than most, maybe don’t feel that way about it. You can be pretty sure, though, that their own jobs and health insurance mean a great deal to them.

So look it up (individual grades are here, and the whole report in pdf format is here. A list of the bills they followed is here). There may be good behavior you need to reward, or you may be represented by a Republican (they’re nonpartisan. I’m not). Either way, it’ll give you something to talk about in the fall, or if you’re a widget lover, something you can post on your own blog right now.

Imagine what we could do once there are sane people in the executive branch.

[FYI, DMI also has a public affairs blog and podcasts of their progressive policy seminars.]

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Middle-aged (thank god); married (oddly enough); native New Yorker; one (thoroughly magnificent, thanks) child, She Who Must Be Obeyed, aka HM (Her Majesty). But a mere lowly end-user by profession, and a former [pretty much everything, at least in somewhat limited first-world terms].

Extravagant (mostly organic) cook, slapdash (completely organic) gardener, brain space originally assigned to names and faces piled up with the overflow from the desperately overcrowded Old Movie and Broadway Trivia section, garage space which was originally assigned to a car piled up with boxes of books.

Dreadful housekeeper, indifferent dresser, takeout menu ninja and the proud owner of a major percentage of the partially finished crafts projects on the east coast of the continental United States.

The handsome gentleman in the picture is Hoa Hakananai'a. He joined the collection of the British Museum in 1868. His name, which is thought to mean "stolen or hidden friend," was given to him by his previous owners when he was collected.