By Jullie Y. Daza
“It would be good for the nation if we can raise the middle class.”
That line did not appear in the President’s State of the Nation Address yesterday, but I believe with all my heart that if he – we – could make that wish come true, life would be better for all of us, not just us in the middle (of nowhere).
The President’s one-liner was neither controversial nor profane, it earned him no enemies, so it was ignored by media, including Malacañang’s own spinners of words.
The middle class – middling, piddling? – has long been overlooked by government despite their earning, spending, tax-paying power. Government doesn’t coddle them like it coddles those who idle, wait for the guava to fall into their mouth, disregard rules as its favored citizens, destroy the environment and their children’s future with their bad habits. Public officials are only too eager to bend over backward to accommodate them before election day, whereas the middle class can go jump in the (polluted) lake any old day with their airs of superiority and constant demands for the good life. These are the people who complain, carp, point out government’s mistakes and lack of concern in this and that area as if they had nothing better to do.
That’s just the trouble. The class of 8-to-5 workers, professionals, small entrepreneurs, self-employeds, retirees with savings in the bank have had to stretch their working hours and imaginations to give their families the most basic creature comforts. This striving is what keeps them going and why, precisely, government needs the backbone of a strong middle class to compensate for those who do not pay taxes, or don’t pay enough.
For the moment, the President is so focused on the big issues – corruption, drugs, federalism, the enemies of the state — that we must pause in the middle of our wish to be immediately prospered. Sure, the boom in shopping, eating out, traveling, buying cars, condos and property, leisure and recreation may be signs of an emerging middle class, but consider how much of the business is fueled by the blood, sweat, and tears of OFWs. (One chain-store retailer’s estimate: 50 percent.)
And yet, is inflation shrinking the middle class, as some fear? Should it grow, how much of it will be on the sacrifices of OFW Class of 2022?