President Barack Obama urged employers to “give working families a fair shot,” as part of national conversion to the “middle-class economics” he called for in last week’s State of the Union Address.
He reminded us that basic necessities of economic survival for working people worldwide, including living wages, paid sick-leave days and affordable child care, still remain out of reach for tens of millions of American families, leaving them with no fair shot at escaping poverty.
We’ve got more than a little experience with that in our own troubled state. Yet almost as if by design (hmm), the people who populate our ever-widening and deepening “pockets” of poverty are clustered together in places like Miami’s Liberty City or in bereft rural and agricultural hoods that cities such as Belle Glade were allowed to become.
That makes it easier for a whole lot of other folks around the state to look the other way and buy into the big political lie that our economy is rebounding beautifully. But I’m guessing that in their “heart of hearts,” most of them know all the talk from Gov. Rick Scott and others in his party about job growth, middle-class “relief” and the rest…is all talk. And for every heart hardened by divisive, partisan political rhetoric, I’m hoping there’s a mind willing to consider a new study’s irrefutable proof of rising, accelerating income inequality in Florida.
The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) has been in control of state economic policy and just about everything else for almost 20 years now. And startling statistics on the explosion of poverty and erosion of the middle class during exactly that same time frame must be the twin engines driving us forward in a new direction; one where economic fair shots for all are for real.
The president used the “fair shot” phrase more than once in his speech, signaling that White House and Democratic Party strategists see the phrase as a good conversation starter for a civil national debate about how to deal with our national economic inequality crisis.
But note that the president didn’t say anything about a crisis. Nor did he use the term “economic inequality,” apparently because strategists and pollsters determined that most working poor folks, middle-class families and retirees on fixed incomes would connect better with positive messaging about “fair shot” solutions. Fair enough.
It’s akin to millions of economically marginalized working poor people who’ve been driven out of the middle class, still proudly identifying themselves as part of it. It’s understandable, and it’s OK.
I just hope the spin doctors and focus group moderators are right, especially here in Florida.
You may remember, Charlie Crist’s failed 2014 bid to unseat Gov. Scott featured a “Fair Shot Florida” economic plan. But it wasn’t introduced until early August, just two months before Election Day. And it didn’t include essential reforms such as closing corporate loopholes and other tax evasion scams for the rich, or mandatory minimum paid sick-leave days for workers. And, it wasn’t repeated over and over and over again, the way Republicans do messaging.
One hopes the Florida Democratic Party understands just how ready most Floridians are for “middle-class economics,” whether they know it or not. A bigger, bolder, more comprehensive “Fair Shot” plan, consistently repeated starting ASAP, can make all the difference in 2016.
Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.