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Commentary: McCain, Obama fighting for middle-class voters

  • Story Highlights
  • Roland S. Martin: Candidates offer anything and everything to snag middle class
  • Martin: "Pathetic pining and pandering for middle-class votes ... moronic"
  • Martin: Jobs, housing, health care, education are the big middle-class issues
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By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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Editor's note: Join Roland S. Martin for his weekly sound-off segment on CNN.com Live at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. If you're passionate about politics, he wants to hear from you. A supporter of Sen. Barack Obama, Martin is a nationally syndicated columnist and Chicago, Illinois-based radio host. He is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith" and "Speak, Brother! A Black Man's View of America." Please visit his Web site.

Roland S. Martin urges the candidates to stop with the lofty talk and simplistic solutions and be specific.

Roland S. Martin urges the candidates to stop with the lofty talk and simplistic solutions and be specific.

(CNN) -- If you are a member of America's middle class in this presidential year, you are sort of like a blue-chip football recruit, lavished with praise, attention and adoration from fawning coaches and alumni who would love nothing better than to land the prized player to win the national championship.

For "Coach" John McCain and "Coach" Barack Obama, the title to win is president of the United States, and like the big-time football coaches, they will say and do anything to make it happen.

Tax cuts? Oh, absolutely, we don't want you to feel any more pain. Let the rich -- and the poor -- deal with carrying the burden. You want more jobs?

Sure, we're going to force companies that send jobs overseas to make them stay at home because we know you need those long disappearing and high-paying manufacturing jobs that helped build this nation.

Can't afford to send your kids to college? Don't sweat it. We've got tax credits, Pell grants, super-duper loans and all kinds of other options to make this a reality.

Are they cutting back on health care at your job? No big deal. Coach McCain says he's got some nifty tax credits lined up to tickle your fancy and ignite your soul. Coach Obama? He's going to go for the whole enchilada by pushing for virtual universal health care.

Election '08: Issues
Roland S. Martin looks at where the candidates stand on issues most important to voters.
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Oh, these guys are wonderful with their sales pitches. They have the ability to make every single one of you feel so special and loved; no one else is more important to them -- at that moment.

I must admit, the pathetic pining and pandering for middle-class votes has turned so moronic that at times it drives me nuts.

First, who in the world are we even talking about? If you listen to the candidates and their campaigns, those in the middle class could make upward of $200,000 a year, while some suggest middle class means earning as little as $20,000.

I moderated a panel Tuesday for the National Black MBA Association and heard descriptions of the lower middle class, the middle class and the upper middle class. Someone even suggested that it's really about a "state of mind."

That's right. It boils down to how we feel and think. If that's the case, then you can have $5 million in the bank, but if you love your family, go to church and share the same values as others around you, you're middle class.

Please, can we just stop with lofty talk and plain-spoken and simplistic solutions and be as specific as possible?

There are really four fundamental issues affecting middle-class voters.

Jobs

We've seen a loss of 600,000 jobs under President Bush, so how exactly will McCain and Obama create jobs? Is there anything in their past that shows they have the ability to do just that? I've heard "drill, drill, drill!" from McCain, and Obama says we're going to turn the old textile and steel mills into a green machine by targeting wind and other sources of energy.

Housing

Congress is providing a backstop for Wall Street -- making billions available if cash is needed. What will McCain and Obama actually do to keep folks from losing their homes?

Oh, I know a lot of people suggest that these middle-class folks should have read the fine print and not gotten in over their heads, but if something is good for Wall Street, why not Main Street?

Health care

This is no joke, and a primary reason why Americans file for bankruptcy. I know. My appendix ruptured in 2000 while covering the Democratic National Convention, forcing me to spend five days in a Los Angeles hospital and accruing more than $70,000 in hospital bills. Yep, I didn't have health insurance.

I was just a 29-year-old never-been-sick freelancer stuck out in the cold. The pressure of that led to falling behind on my mortgage, and the start of foreclosure proceedings.

Bankruptcy was the only thing that saved me, and by the grace of God, my finances turned around, and this month, I'm making my final payment. McCain says a $5,000 tax credit for health care will help, but the problem with that is you have to pay the dough upfront, and then claim it on your taxes. But what happens when they want the money now?

Obama says the answer is his health care plan, but that switch won't be flipped immediately. So what happens while the laborious debate takes place? I just wait for my MRI until Washington finishes debating and the special interests pick the plan to death?

Education

For many Americans, education is a ticket to the middle class and beyond.

Much of the time the candidates talk about vouchers. Look, that's not going to solve the education problem.

What we should be hearing them talk about is the inequity of the school systems.

Children living in wealthy school districts get tons of money and the best qualified teachers, while poorer districts are forced to make do with less qualified teachers and without computers or even basic amenities.

The bottom line

Remember those blue-chip players? Today, they are telling a coach: If you want me to sign, promise that I'll start. No play, no sign.

That's what middle-class Americans must tell the candidates. If you are unwilling to put your personal credibility and integrity behind your campaign pledges, then you don't get my vote.

And if you give away your vote just because someone is a Democrat or Republican, or a man or a woman, or black or white, and you end up getting screwed in the end, you have no one to blame but yourself.

So use the most powerful thing you have to demand real answers to your real problems from McCain, Obama, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin: your vote.

The power is literally in your hands.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

All About Barack ObamaJohn McCainEducationJobs and LaborHealth Care Policy

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