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Classy Politics

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How does your economic outlook affect your politics?

Pennsylvania voters finally go to the polls Tuesday after the state has been in the political spotlight for more than a month. In a state peppered with formerly prosperous industrial towns, this may be the primary where the phrase “it’s the economy, stupid” comes home to roost.

That phrase was coined for Bill Clinton’s first run for the presidency. This time around, all three major candidates are capitalizing on the sentiment, if not the exact phrase. As the economy continues its downward trend and the campaign season continues to heat up, class, specifically the middle class, is a word that creeps into political rhetoric more and more. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton touched on class issues in their Philadelphia debate, and Republican John McCain mentioned middle class tax cuts in a recent speech in Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania’s economics are echoed here in the Northwest, where many small towns have suffered the loss of jobs that won’t be coming back and the costs of both healthcare and housing are on the rise, not to mention the price of food and gas. Jared Berstein, author of Crunch, argues that “The squeeze is on” all over America, and it has everything to do with economic inequality. Census data shows that income has been a factor in past elections and that trend will likely continue this year.

What’s your economic outlook? Do you identify with a particular class? How does that affect your level of political involvement or the way you vote? How do you think the next president will help, or change, your economic situation?


  • Jared Bernstein: Senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and author of Crunch
  • Sarah Meyers: 29-year-old single mom living in Portland
  • Eric McKirdy: Graphic designer for Alphagraphics in Albany
  • Ted Magnuson: Retired insurance agent living in Portland

Photo credit: Jeremy Dennis / Flickr / Creative Commons

class tax economy 2008 election recession

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