When I was growing up, my parents made it pretty clear that I was going to go to school every day and work hard. Any deviation from that plan usually met with very unpleasant consequences.
My father only made it through the eighth grade; my mother just the tenth grade. Even still, they knew that the only way I was going to climb out of poverty was to do what they couldn't -- get an education.
There was no study that told them that. I can't recall my parents poring over actuarial charts or plotting graphs on the kitchen table to plot the trajectory of my success. They just knew it. And I knew not to question it.
But in today's political environment, what was once common sense now requires empirical evidence.
Last Sunday, NBC's Meet The Press ran a segment titled "In Plain Sight: Poverty in America.'' Moderator Chuck Todd presented poll findings on who in America identifies themselves as "middle class." According to the survey, 41 percent of Americans identified themselves as middle class. Of the 41 percent, more than half were white, live in the suburbs and have college degrees.
Thirty-eight percent described themselves as poor or working poor and identified as minorities. A solid majority of these respondents were younger, between the ages of 18 to 34, and did not have college degrees.
Most of the remaining 20 percent who consider themselves well-to-do or upper middle class reported themselves as having postgraduate degrees.
What's the common thread? Education.
My parents told me that education was the key to a better life. I am living proof of that fact. And now NBC has a poll that provides statistical evidence. Sadly, my parent's common sense and Chuck Todd's statistical evidence are not enough.
This week, Congressional Republicans released their fiscal budget for 2016, promising more tax breaks to the country's wealthiest few and biggest corporations. This same fight is playing out in state legislatures across the country. But it's really not a tax cut. In truth, it's a tax shift.
Cuts in federal funding mean states, counties and municipalities must pass those costs along to their taxpayers -- usually in the form of higher sales taxes and property taxes including school millages. If you have felt the pain increasing local taxes have on your family's monthly budget, welcome to the middle class. The billionaires and big corporations would like to thank you for footing the bill for their lower taxes.
These proposed cuts in education funding will go back to some of the lowest levels since 2000. After 60 consecutive months of economic growth, this budget wants us to hearken back a decade to a time of home foreclosures, job losses and economic decline.
They are calling for $1.2 billion less in Title 1 education funding. This amount affects 4,500 schools, 17,000 teachers, and roughly 1.9 million students. This is just the start. In 2017, House Republicans' budget aims for even deeper cuts to education, including the Pell Grant program, which is a great tool for allowing young people the access to colleges they otherwise would never have the means to attend.
After 60 consecutive months of private sector job growth
Education, more than any single factor, allows individuals the ability to get better jobs and provide for themselves and their families. A strong middle class creates jobs and provides communities with a source of economic stability.
This is a concept every parent knows, but few Republicans seem to understand. Fortunately for them, my father's swift wrath is no longer around to help them see what should be simple common sense.