Middle class value claims are a 'joke' [Commentary]

It's the political season, which explains another column of "Things That Bug Me." Herewith my latest list for your consideration:

Unemployment news that fails to note our declining labor force. Labor force participation is at a low last reached in 1978 (62.7 percent), and average hourly earnings have remained flat, explaining why a majority of Americans (particularly middle class workers) believe the economic recovery has left them behind — the president's continuing pleas to the contrary notwithstanding.


Claims that voter reforms are discriminatory against minorities. The indictment lacks substance. Early voting has had minimal impact on voter turnout; the removal of ineligible names (mostly the deceased) disenfranchises nobody. The Supreme Court has upheld (by a 6-3 vote) voter photo identification. A nation that requires proof of identity in order to enter public and private buildings, board an airplane, use a credit card or buy prescription medicine can surely require appropriate documentation to preserve our most sacred constitutional right.

The prosecution of Tom Delay. U.S. Rep. Tom Delay was never a sympathetic public figure, rather a partisan movement conservative intent on perpetuating GOP control of the U.S. House and Texas legislature. His rough-and-tumble style (nickname "The Hammer") was widely criticized by the media, Democrats intent on regaining majority status and even some Republicans desirous of a more collegial persona. Yet, the nine-year legal ordeal against Mr. Delay waged by the Travis County district attorney must give everyone pause, regardless of party. You see, an appellate panel in Texas has finally ended (by an 8-1 vote) the appeal process, concluding that Mr. Delay did nothing wrong in his fundraising efforts. This final victory does not have Mr. Delay's former colleagues (myself included) reaching for the victory cigar. In the end, the bad guys got their scalp: loss of office, public humiliation, bankruptcy. What a travesty.


P.S. You may have read that Texas Governor Rick Perry faces the same sort of ludicrous political prosecution. Here's hoping his stint in the prosecution's cross-hairs will be brief. Public resources are better spent fighting real political corruption. Politics is tough enough without this brand of ill-conceived witch hunting.

The gradual decline of American sovereignty. Four years ago, in my final gubernatorial debate, Gov. Martin O'Malley declared his support for "new Americans" — the group formerly known as illegal immigrants. The reference would have constituted a major political gaffe not so long ago, but no longer. Indeed, the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland are well known "sanctuary" venues — where federal immigration law is reduced to a mere suggestion. In Washington, the president's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program directed federal immigration officials to unilaterally decide the fate of those who immigrated illegally as children — again, reducing the law to discretionary status. Reportedly, a similar move to legalize millions more undocumented immigrants will be made (predictably) after the mid-term elections. Such actions weaken border security and respect for federal law. Is there any wonder why our porous southern border provides fodder for late night comedians?

President Obama's defensiveness on the world stage. Despite the president's soaring rhetoric, goodwill tours and grandiose intentions, the world remains a messy place. This is not the president's fault — merely a reminder that evil people with bad intent have always been around. But why does the president regularly headline America's warts when discussing American foreign policy aims and goals? Just last month, Mr. Obama felt obliged to cite racial tensions in Ferguson, Mo., during his widely anticipated United Nations speech regarding the elevation of ISIS from JV to varsity status — varsity killers that is. Such ill-conceived attempts to mitigate the reappearance of the American military on the world stage are misplaced as the "Leader of the Free World" places American lives in harm's way. America's myriad sins are certainly appropriate debate fodder — just not when young Americans are waging war in order that others (predominantly Muslims) can live.

Progressive rage at income inequality. All of the economic indicators reflect a skewed recovery tilted in favor of the wealthy. Economists from right, left and center point toward Fed monetary policy that has disproportionately benefited equities and real estate — assets typically held by the moneyed class. Progressive income tax hikes and a $1.2 trillion stimulus have failed to move the needle toward balance. No surprise here; neither policy was targeted to job creation and private sector growth. In fact, just the opposite. That a progressive president has presided over this phenomenon is the greatest irony of the last six years. Still, you can bet Hillary Clinton and the Democrats will (again) champion "middle class values" at their 2016 convention. What a joke.

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" and "America: Hope for Change" — books about national politics. His email is

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