We Americans face a stark choice for our economy. We can double down on policies that pushed us into recession. This strategy would further enrich the very wealthy, undermine the middle class and restore the financial free-for-all that failed us so badly.
The other choice – the choice we endorse – is a strategy that makes investments in our future as a country, supports working Americans and encourages broadly shared growth. In this strategy, we fix our politics and our economy so they work for the middle class, not narrow economic interests. In this strategy, we are guided by the practical lessons of our history and the growing amount of research that shows deregulation and tax cuts can’t build long-term prosperity.
We have a choice between austerity economics and prosperity economics. It is a choice we have to make individually and as a country.
The stakes could not be higher. Nearly 24 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed or have dropped out of the job market altogether. The jobs crisis is aggravating the long-term decline of the American middle class. Over the last thirty years, the historical connection between wages and productivity has broken. The economy has grown, but most Americans have seen little of the benefit. Instead, the gains have gone disproportionately to the top 1 percent, and especially the top slices of the top 1 percent on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms.
We therefore join together to demand a new direction. The long-term health of our country depends on economic growth, individual and social security and a strong democracy. Our agenda calls for strengthening each of the three pillars of prosperity.
Growth: We call for immediate spending on infrastructure to create jobs and lay the foundations for future growth and for federal grants to the states to put teachers, firemen and other public servants back to work. We seek expanded support for students to ensure that every qualified student can attend and graduate from college. We call for major investments in scientific research and development, especially in the area of clean energy, to encourage increased economic innovation. We seek new monetary and trade policies that support our manufacturing base and encourage job creation, not outsourcing; and we call for strengthening the rights of workers to bargain collectively to ensure they share in the gains their labor produces.
Security: We call for strengthening, not cutting Social Security – and reject plans to slash Medicaid or turn Medicare into a voucher. We call for building on the Affordable Care Act by putting in place a public option. We seek to guarantee long-term economic stability by putting a price on carbon and stewarding our natural resources. And we press for real progressive tax reform that will help reverse inequality, put our government on solid fiscal footing and cut unhealthy subsidies for industries, such as big oil, that harm our environment and our society.
Democracy: We reject the idea that corporations are persons with the right to unlimited spending to dominate our politics. We call for reining in political and lobbying expenditures, for public financing of campaigns, and for actions that would strengthen civil society and help citizen organizations hold government accountable. We must empower shareholders to police corporate behavior and executive pay, and empower workers to form unions and collectively bargain to serve as a check on the power of corporate actors. We call for filibuster reform. And we insist on the removal of all barriers that stand between citizens and their right to vote.
Today, the misguided mindset of austerity economics dominates debate in Washington, D.C. That’s why we can no longer wait for our elected officials to take the lead. Decisions made in the next few years will have profound consequences for Americans and the American economy for decades to come. It is time to make the changes that will create prosperity for all.
Read the full 60-page “Prosperity Economics” paper by Jacob Hacker and Nate Loewentheil on the Prosperity for America website.