To me, there is no single greater problem facing the United States today than the decline in middle-class incomes. For the first time in our history, those incomes have declined for over one straight decade, dropping over 10% since 1999. That is a shock to the collective conscience of America and has frankly turned our politics on its head. Middle-class families that are trying to feed their kids, send them to college, and afford decent health care know what a 10% drop in their income means – it’s devastating.
The decline in middle class incomes has also given rise to poverty and unprecedented levels of income inequality in this country. The gap between the top and the bottom has never been wider.
This is why we need the strong liberal voices that make up the blogosphere.
I believe the Democratic Party is at its strongest when voices from across the spectrum are heard. When I meet with wealthy people who bemoan the left, I remind them that the current income gap isn’t sustainable, and that if we don’t address it, this country will change for the worse. It will be worse for the poor, worse for the middle class, and worse for the wealthy.
Liberal blogs do the best job highlighting what that gap and that struggle mean, in terms both political and personal. You tell the stories of people who have been wronged by the system, whether by an unfair government policy or a corporation acting out of line. And just as importantly, you advocate for the solutions. Few have pushed harder to raise the minimum wage, protect earned retirement benefits, and to ensure that every American has access to decent, affordable healthcare than the voices found on liberal blogs across the country.
You and I are on the same team with respect to these issues, and we also agree on something else: when Wall Street acts irresponsibly and hurts the middle-class, changes should be made. That’s why I proudly supported the Dodd-Frank bill and have repeatedly worked to hold Wall Street excesses in check.
My recent comments during a discussion about Wall Street and criticism from liberal blogs were unartfully worded. Let me explain a little more clearly what I meant: being from New York and representing its people, I see the individuals that make up the entirety of Wall Street. I see executives and vice presidents who contribute to the problems many people identify, but I also see leaders who recognize those problems and are working to correct them – but most importantly I see the secretaries, the clerks, the janitors and cafeteria workers who depend on Wall Street for their jobs.
I represent all those individuals, and I know them personally. I talk to the secretary who gets on the bus in Staten Island, works hard all day at a financial services firm to support her family. I talk to the immigrant from the South Bronx who gets on the subway, works in the cafeteria and has hopes and dreams for her son and daughter. When these people lose their jobs, it pains me. And when we talk about Wall Street generally, it's my job to encourage everyone to be conscious of that side of it too. When we talk about the auto industry, we don’t just talk about the executives, we talk about the worker on the assembly line. Representing New York, I see the entirety of Wall Street, which can sometimes be forgotten by those who don’t see it as closely.
We have a lot of tough fights coming up ahead. The Tea Party and hard right Republicans are still devoted to taking the middle-class angst that has swept across the country and directing it right at government programs that make a difference in the lives of millions of Americans. We have to stand arm in arm to push back.
The proud, strong voices on liberal blogs are one of the best weapons we have in that fight, and I’m proud to join in that struggle with you.