Rick Santorum and the hollowing out of America’s middle class

Rick Santorum, darkest of dark horse GOP presidential candidates, hits the economic nail on the head. But will a new U.S. tax code alone solve America’s key defining issue?

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Then-Senator Rick Santorum (R) watches with Congressional colleagues as President George W. Bush signs H.R. 6111, the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006. Is tax reform enough to help our vanishing middle-class in 2015? (U.S. government employee photo, not copyrighted)

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2015 – Once again, the lamestream media’s postgame coverage of Tuesday’s GOP presidential debate is wasting actual and virtual column inches discussing the current state of the Republican “horse race.” It’s who they are and it’s what they do. That’s what leads them, again and again, to miss key issues in these debates.

In the horse race, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were generally regarded by the media as the “winners” in Tuesday’s title match, while recently demoted dark-horse candidate Chris Christie was judged to have come out on top in the undercard bout.

Cruz in particular scored points for his strong anti-illegal alien stance, as did Donald Trump for that matter. While routinely ignored or denounced by the RINO Republicans who still run the party show, this issue is the primary economic elephant in the room, and GOP candidates ignore or downplay it at their peril.

But little noted Tuesday was an important observation by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a high-principled, strongly religious cypher of a presidential candidate. His presence on the campaign circuit has been virtually ignored by the media during the debates.


While the immigration issue is the third rail of the 2016 presidential campaign season, Santorum was the only candidate to dwell at some length on a strongly related and tragically allied issue: the disastrous decline and neglect of America’s rapidly vanishing middle class

Santorum said Thursday the economy is not great for many Americans. In an online article posted this morning on CBNC online, at least one writer did take note of Santorum’s remarks: “[Santorum] told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that while asset values and real estate are higher, wages are not. ‘There is a hollowing out of the middle of this country. I think it’s clearly because of the anti-growth policies of this administration.’

“Santorum wants to simplify the U.S. tax code by enacting, among other measures, a 20 percent flat tax on individuals and corporations.”

While nearly every other GOP candidate also has a plan for “simplifying” the U.S. tax code, too, none really emphasized the plight of America’s middle class, obscured as it is due to the largely phony inflation and employment numbers the federal government publishes every month.

Back in the day, Jimmy Carter clumsily attempted to raise the issue of what he termed America’s “malaise,” the grumpy mood many citizens found themselves in after the Democrat Congress pulled the plug on the Democrats’ Vietnam War, blaming everything about it on former President Nixon (which was easy to do at the time).

They pulled our troops, slowed military spending to a crawl and in the process exposed the massive quantities of money Lyndon Johnson had spent on micromanaging the war while forcing his “Great Society” programs on an unsuspecting public.

All of a sudden, Lyndon Johnson’s massive bills came due, and with the hyperinflation that took hold in the Carter administration, Phase I of middle class destruction was underway. President Reagan, with a big assist from then-Fed Chair and fiscal hawk Paul Volcker, succeeded in reversing this downward spiral for a time, restoring much of the country’s middle class—and optimism—in the process.

But since then, largely due to vote-buying giveaways by mostly Democrat-led Congresses—particularly in the real estate arena—things came to a screeching economic halt once again circa 2007-2010, the core years (according to this writer) of the Great Recession, which itself has yet to be solved.

This also has moved us into Phase II of middle class extermination as America’s first Marxist president has put even his own union supporters out to pasture. With unemployment, by realistic measurements, still in the stratosphere and with the lowest percentage of work force participation in recent history, the rich have gotten richer under Obama while everyone else continues to scramble, attempting to make do with flat-to-nonexistent wage increases, if indeed they have jobs at all.

It’s this systemic destruction of our country and our way of life, the result of one party’s unbroken long-term record of corruption, that lies at the root of the Decline and Fall of the American Middle Class. But Rick Santorum’s solution to the problem—lower, flatter taxes—may or may not help solve that problem. Ditto his fellow GOP candidates.

Lower taxes for all is a good first step. But turning this country around, as Ronald Reagan did, presents a far greater challenge now than it was in the 1980s when most Americans still believed in our system.

This country’s mood is turning increasingly populist and ugly as we near the end of 2015. Voters are angry at Obama’s destruction of this country’s borders and at the destruction of their own jobs as well—issues they believe are closely connected. With ample justification, they blame at least part of their decline and fall at least in part on the importation of cheap labor at all levels. But they know instinctively that crony capitalism and an unfair and unjust tax code can’t be helping either.

Fixing the tax code would be great. But even better would be a combination of repairing the tax code while solving the illegal alien problem once and for all. The candidate who can pitch both issues successfully and simultaneously could break out as the real front-runner next year. While that candidate is not likely to be Rick Santorum, he’s addressed a key issue, the acknowledgment of which could lead to a Republican sweep in 2016.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17