Progressive Ideas For Reviving The Middle Class

Our guest blogger is Amanda Logan, a Research Associate at the Center for American Progress.

On Meet the Bloggers on Friday, I — along with Isaiah Poole, host Cenk Uygur, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) — discussed the fact many Americans are hurting while only a small few continue to prosper. As CAP Senior Fellow Scott Lilly explained in his recent paper on “Bushenomics,” the Bush administration has overseen a period in which the overall U.S. economy grew by 18 percent, highly driven by a 19 percent increase in the hourly productivity of workers, while the average income for America’s middle class families has actually declined by 2 percent.

Meanwhile, this administration didn’t exactly support the increase in the minimum wage, has opposed the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and increasing the opportunities for workers to unionize, chiefly by coming out against the Employee Free Choice Act, all while implementing very regressive tax cuts that have allotted 30 percent of the cuts to the top one percent earners in the nation.


It seems like the some members of the media and law makers are at least beginning to get a sense of the severity of the situation that many middle-income Americans, let alone lower-income Americans, have been experiencing for quite some time. Numbers don’t lie, and recent economic data across the board have highlighted everything from the weakening labor market and stagnant wages, to lackluster GDP growth, to sharp increases in the cost of necessities, to lower consumer spending, which is very important to note given that the current business cycle has largely been driven by consumer spending.

So, now what? On the income front, we should continue to raise the minimum wage, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, work to increase access to unions, for example, by passing the Employee Free Choice Act, and improve unemployment insurance, a safety net that more American’s are finding it necessary to fall back on in light of today’s weak labor market. Additionally, we should improve America’s social safety net in general, for example by confronting the health care challenge this nation faces and addressing the lack of coverage and rising health care.

And, for the longer term, policy makers and the public alike should take a real hard look at the outcome of seven plus years of a conservative agenda that has proven to lack balance, sustainability, and exhibited a general disregard for Americans, save the very wealthiest. They should also consider the Progressive alternative.

Fore example, the US could enact a national innovation agenda in order to take advantage of the many economic growth opportunities available to a nation that is a leader in science and technology. This summer’s headlines have shown that America is far too exposed to oil shocks. The current administration hasn’t found a place they don’t want to drill and have signed of on energy industry subsidies while the industries’ profits have continued to climb. We should wean ourselves off of oil in general, expand our efforts for alternative energy development and expansion, diversify our energy portfolio, and get serious about transforming America’s economy into a low-carbon economy. Becoming a leader in the energy economy could also open up a number of doors for economic growth and help prevent American families from feeling as much pain at the pump as they have this summer.

The US Economy has not been on the right track for quite some time now and the public is certainly aware of what that means for them. In fact, more and more Americans are finding themselves having to face the ultimate financial edge after shouldering increasing debt levels for so many years, as indicated by the rising foreclosure and bankruptcy filing rates. What remains to be seen is what policy makers and voters will decide to do about it.