Fox News host Gretchen Carlson suggested tension between President Obama saying he is fighting for the middle class and a new report showing that the middle class suffered its "worst decade in modern history." However, George W. Bush, not Obama, was president during most of that decade, and experts agree that the Bush economic policies were damaging to the middle class.
On Wednesday, the Pew Research Center released a report showing that since 2000, "the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some -- but by no means all -- of its characteristic faith in the future." The report described the middle class as suffering its "worst decade in modern history."
On Fox & Friends today, Carlson used that report to suggest that Obama is to blame for the difficulties the middle class has faced. Discussing a campaign event in which Obama highlighted his effort of investing in education to grow the economy, Carlson said:
CARLSON: The interesting thing is, at the same time he talked about the fact that he was really stumping for the middle class, and that's exactly when a new report just came out that said the middle class has had its worst decade ever. Ever. So I'm not really sure how you weigh those two things together.
Despite Carlson trying to manufacture tension between Obama's remarks and the report on the middle class' "worst decade in history," George W. Bush, not Obama, was president for most of this decade, and experts agree that Bush's economic policies hurt the middle class.
An August 2004 study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showed that Bush's tax cuts shifted the overall federal tax burden so that a larger share fell on the middle class. In its report on the study, CBS News wrote:
President Bush's tax cuts since 2001 have shifted more of the tax burden from the nation's rich to middle-class families, according to a study released Friday by the Congressional Budget Office.
The tax rate declined across all income levels -- but more so in the top brackets, the report said.
In a September 2010 interview, former labor secretary Robert Reich said that the Bush-era tax cuts "hurt quite a lot." He explained:
The original Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, remember, were sold to America as a way to revive the economy and also create a lot of jobs and generate a lot of wage growth. Well, actually, if you look at the record between 2001 and 2007, the so-called Bush recovery, there were very few jobs. Even the widest and broadest and most generous estimate is about 10 or eight million jobs, relative to the 22 million jobs created under the Clinton administration.
And, beyond that, median wages, Jeff, actually dropped between 2001 and 2007. Adjusted for inflation, the median worker actually grew poorer. There was no trickle-down at all.
A June 2011 Economic Policy Institute study found that "the Bush-era tax changes conferred disproportionate benefits to those at the top of the earnings distribution, exacerbating a trend of widening income inequality at a time of already poor wage growth." The study concluded that the impact of "cutting capital gains rates and lowering the top marginal tax rates never materialized for working families."
What's more, voters recognize that Obama's policies are better for the middle class.
Pew found that roughly 52 percent of self-described middle-class adults say Obama's policies in a second term would help the middle class, while 39 percent say they would not help. In contrast, 42 percent say electing Romney would help the middle class, while 40 percent say it would not help.
Pew also found that 44 percent of self-described middle-class adults blamed the Bush administration for "for the difficulties the middle class has faced in the past 10 years" while 34 percent blamed the Obama administration.
Based on Pew's poll, The New York Times created the following graph: