santa.jpgIs Joe Biden the middle class’ Santa Claus?

The vice president-to-be is being pegged by the incoming Obama administration as the savior of working people everywhere. He will head a new government group that will have bolstering the middle class as its top priority.

In a statement released yesterday Biden says:

“Our charge is to look at existing and future policies across the board and use a yardstick to measure how they are impacting the working and middle-class families. President-elect Obama and I know the economic health of working families has eroded, and we intend to turn that around.”

biden.jpg

The initiative, named the White House Task Force on Working Families, will be headed by Biden and will include help from the secretaries of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services and Commerce. The goals of the group:

* Expanding education and lifelong training opportunities
* Improving work and family balance
* Restoring labor standards, including workplace safety
* Helping to protect middle-class and working-family incomes
* Protecting retirement security

Big guns. Big plans. But will the incoming administration be able to turn the tide for so many hard-working Americans?

I’m in the Christmas spirit this morning so my gut answer right now is, maybe.

The rank and file in this country have seen their earnings stagnate in the last decade; they’ve seen their nest eggs and pensions dwindle; and they’ve been asked to work harder and harder.

And, with this recession, you better believe it is the middle class getting the screws put to them.

I’ve written before in this blog about how employers are squeezing employee pay and benefits. The New York Times reports on this today with a story on how “More Companies Cut Labor Cost Without Layoff.” And now we hear that more firms are asking workers to put in ridiculous hours because people are just not shopping enough. There’s a story about this in the Wall Street Journal today title “Retailers Look to Capture Night Owls.”

No one has really cared about the working stiffs behind the news stories and numbers. Indeed, the WSJ story doesn’t even mention the toll these hours put on the workers.

So, back to Biden-o-Claus. I’m too old to think a task force, or any special government group can really make a major difference. But it is a step in the right direction. At least somebody’s noticed that there haven’t been a lot of work-place presents under the Christmas trees of middle-class Americans.

Time for some ho, ho hoing, no?

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