Back in 1998, a young Barack Obama explained many of his views of the world. Among those views, he admitted that he supported “redistribution” of wealth. He also said that he believed a “majority coalition” could be built using the “working poor,” which he described as including working people who made $30,000 per year at the time.
“What I think will re-engage people in politics is if we’re doing significant, serious policy work around what I will label the ‘working poor,’” he said, “although my definition of the working poor is not simply folks making minimum wage, but it’s also families of four who are making $30,000 a year.”
“They are struggling. And to the extent that we are doing research figuring out what kinds of government action would successfully make their lives better, we are then putting together a potential majority coalition to move those agendas forward.”
Fourteen years ago, $30,000 per year bought more than it does today. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has an online calculator that converts salaries across years. According to that calculator, $30,000 in 1998 equates to $42,401.04 in 2012. The US median income in 2011 was $50,502.
The two numbers above — 1998 and $30,000 — have special significance to me. I left the US Air Force in 1997 and landed a dream job as a NASA contractor a few months later. I started on that job in January 1998, annual salary $30,000. That salary represented a significant increase over my Air Force salary. In Obama’s mind at that time, I was among the “working poor” even though I would buy my first house a year later and already owned two cars. I wanted and soon earned significant raises, but the idea that I was among the “working poor” in 1998 would have struck me as insane. Had some two-bit leftist from Chicago told me I was “working poor” at the time, I would have laughed in his face and told him to stop insulting me and buzz off.
Obama’s attitude then shows up now, in the federal government doing all it can to increase dependence on government services even among working Americans who own their homes and cars. By any historical standard, they are not poor. In other period in American history, such people would not be targeted for food stamps and the stigma alone would keep them away. But we have replaced actual food stamps with ATM cards that remove the public sting from dependence, and we have been advertising food stamps to working middle class Americans for at least two years now. Barack Obama still sees the “working poor” as people just a click below the national salary mean, and sees them as people he can tie up to government services along with welfare recipients to build his “majority coalition.”
That coalition would end up bankrupting the US by voting itself ever more largesse out of the treasury, squeezing and ultimately breaking the system. And that’s part of the plan.