Rising Costs, Stagnant Wages Continue to Squeeze Middle Class

December 5, 2014
Representative Roby's Weekly Column

You’ve probably heard me talk before about the “squeeze” facing middle class families in this economy. A recent front page Wall Street Journal article laid out what is behind that squeeze - the combination of rising costs for basic needs and largely stagnant incomes.

Americans are spending more for everyday necessities: 12.5 percent more on groceries, 26 percent more on rent and 42 percent more on health insurance. Those are staggering numbers!

Many factors affect these rising costs, and flawed federal policies are among them. Energy costs directly affect grocery prices, particularly high-priced Diesel fuel that is used in farming and trucking. Yet, President Obama is more focused on radical environmentalist goals than commonsense energy proposals like the Keystone Pipeline. The labyrinth Dodd-Frank housing regulations shocked the market and forced more would-be homeowners into rentals, increasing demand and prices. And, of course, the ill-conceived and woefully-implemented ObamaCare law has jacked up insurance premiums and copays for families across the country.

But costs are only half the equation. Take home pay is the other half. Unfortunately, the disappointing Obama economy has seen incomes remain largely stagnant. When families are forced to spend significantly more on basic necessities, yet aren't bringing home more income, they get squeezed.

Naturally, families are spending less on non-essentials like family vacations, restaurants, movies, furniture, cars and a wide-range of other goods and services. That has a detrimental effect on those industries, on our overall economy and on state and local governments that depend on such consumer spending to derive revenue.

So what’s the takeaway? Instead of helping middle class Americans in the wake of a recession, “Big Government” made things worse. While I am eager to work with a more conservative Senate when it takes office in January, we aren’t waiting to get to work turning things around. We are setting the table for an agenda focused on commonsense solutions that improve the economy and reduce costs for the middle class. Among them are ideas to reform our complicated and costly tax structure, create infrastructure to help enable an American energy boom, increase transparency in government to cut wasteful spending, reform welfare to help recipients find jobs and lift their families out of poverty, restore the 40-hour work-week and write sensible health care policies that are patient-centered and competition based.