By David Mills, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia
The nonpartisan Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis recently released a report stating that the gap between the rich and the poor in Virginia is now the third widest in the nation and the widest in 30 years. As more Virginians struggle to make ends meet, we cannot afford to sit by and watch the middle class evaporate. In the upcoming elections Virginians will choose between a party focused on creating real opportunity for working families and one that seems intent on kicking the middle class when they’re down by cutting investments that empower them to succeed.
Talking about the release of their report, the Director of the Commonwealth Institute said that building the middle class was “among the primary vehicles for economic growth and stability” following World War II. In other words, fighting to give every family the opportunity to succeed is not only the right thing to do; it’s also a recipe for a healthy economy.
The American middle class represents the fundamental promise our country makes to its citizens; that through hard work and dedication you can improve your quality of life. If the middle class is healthy and growing, that promise appears genuine. Yet in far too many cases across Virginia and America, people have resigned themselves to the fact that no matter how hard they work their situations will not improve. Their children will inherit their challenges, and we will not move forward.
Building and preserving a thriving middle class starts by creating jobs and opportunity at all levels of society. For many, the investments that government makes through education, social services and other institutions create the only opportunity they can find. Therefore, protecting those investments that should be the top priority of Virginians from every political perspective.
Unfortunately, while Democrats are fighting to balance our budget without harming working families, Republicans have launched an all-out assault on the institutions and programs that offer struggling families a chance to build a better life.
As they pursue their politically motivated budget cuts, Eric Cantor, Bob McDonnell and the Virginia GOP are proving over and again that they understand the cost of everything but the value of nothing. From food assistance programs to emergency mortgage protections to health care reform, Republicans in Congress and here in state government are targeting institutions that help struggling families stay afloat and create opportunities for advancement for the people who need them most.
Even public education, the most impactful thing we can do to create opportunity for every student to succeed in the modern economy, was not safe this year. House and Senate Republicans, along with Governor McDonnell, made several attempts to take millions of dollars out of K-12 education in a misguided effort to pay for short-term transportation projects or other uses. Fortunately, Democrats stood together and defeated the effort, defending the value of a quality education for every student across the state.
This is the choice that Virginians will have in the 2011 legislative elections: between a Democratic party that fights for institutions that move Virginia families forward by creating jobs and advancing the middle class, and a Republican party that targets those institutions for reckless cuts.
If you believe that advancing the middle class through education, job creation and smart government investments in people is the right way to build a prosperous economy, I hope you will join with Virginia Democrats this year as we work to elect candidates who will stand up to the disastrous Republican agenda that will take this Commonwealth backward.