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There has been much talk recently in political circles and the media about the middle class, whether it’s disappearing, and what elected leaders should do to help this wide swath of Americans. I’ve watched as two liberal candidates for President have tried to claim the mantle of middle class champions by raging at Wall Street and attacking the so-called wealthy. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders – a self-described socialist – also absurdly stated that having too many brands of shoes and deodorant to pick from is a reason that there’s not more upward mobility in America today.

Martin O’Malley claims he will help the poor and middle class as President but the policies he championed here in Maryland were the most anti-middle class in the country. A 20% sales tax increase and an exponential, never-ending gas tax hike are two of the lowlights of Gov. O’Malley’s middle class record. A whopping 40-plus tax increases as well as toll and fee hikes were peppered throughout the O’Malley era.

As an elected official who is decidedly middle class, I’ve found their discussion of the middle class fascinating in its ignorance. Sanders and O’Malley fail to understand that you can’t raise the fortunes of the middle class by bringing another group of people down. This is particularly true if you’re punishing the people who employ or invest in the businesses of the middle class. In addition, while we certainly need strong enforcement of current law against dishonest stock market practices, you won’t help middle class people by assaulting the institutions many of us depend on to help grow our retirement savings.

Here in Maryland, one big reason people are struggling to join or stay in the middle class is the high cost of living. It’s driven by a heavy tax burden and excessive regulations that add to the built-in price of goods and services. To pay for the very programs that Gov. O’Malley claimed would help the middle class, he had to take thousands of dollars more out of our wallets each year.

Rather than class warfare and warmed-over 1970’s era budget busting big government solutions, we need leadership that believes we know best to how to manage our lives and finances. A limited federal government focusing on removing barriers to economic growth and ensuring equality of opportunity – rather than artificially trying to ensure equality of outcomes, will do wonders for the middle class.

Originally published in Carroll County Times on June 10th