The middle class is sinking. Jobs are scarce; wages aren’t keeping up; basic benefits like pensions are disappearing, as the richest few clean up. Conservatives want more tax breaks for the corporations and wealthy, paid for by cuts in Medicare and education. That’s the poisonous brew that got us in this mess.
We need a bold strategy to revive the middle class, not short-term schemes that waste money and ignore the challenges we face. We’ve got to take on the special interests that rig the rules in Washington, curb big money in politics, and shut the revolving door between legislators and lobbies. Then focus on good jobs first.
Let’s see “made in America” back in our stores. Repeal the obscene tax breaks that multinationals pocket for shipping our jobs abroad; reward companies that produce here at home. Invest in areas vital to our economy – innovation, education, rebuilding our decrepit roads and sewers, and pay for it by insuring the wealthy and the big corporations pay their fair share. And working people must be paid for the work that they do: Raise the minimum wage; stop rewarding CEOs for cooking the books; empower workers to bargain for a fair share of the profits they help to produce. This economy won’t work unless we rebuild the middle class.
Opinion research by CAF with Democracy Corps and Lake Research, and by the Roosevelt Institute with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research suggest guidelines for making the case:
1. Stand with the middle class, the working people who are under siege. This focus should encompass everyone from the poor who would enter the middle class to those struggling to stay in it.
2. Go after the entrenched interests and big money that rig the rules. Americans are skeptical of government partly because they sensibly think it is corrupted, serving the insiders, not the citizenry.
3. Go strong, sustained and strategic, not temporary, timid and targeted. Americans understand things are badly awry; they don’t believe a dash of stimulus or a dose of austerity can “jump-start” the economy. They are looking for a bold strategy for a way out.
4. Don’t let concerns about deficits trump support for investments vital to the economy. People understand the need for public spending on education, on first responders and teachers, on roads and sewers, on renewable energy. They want the public pillars of family security–Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—protected. Broad majorities support raising taxes on the rich, the big banks and the multinationals to help pay for what is needed.
5. Offer more than just spending more money. We must also change our corporate trade policies; curb executive pay excesses and help workers gain a fair share of profits; reward patriotic corporations that keep jobs in the U.S.; and help homeowners renegotiate underwater mortgages. People are looking for a strategy that makes sense, not more spending on what we’ve been doing.
Any notion of a “grand bargain” must begin with action on jobs. Putting people to work is the first and necessary step to deficit reduction. Europe’s continuing miseries provide clear warning of the folly of inflicting austerity on an economy scarred by mass unemployment.
More tax cuts for the rich and companies that ship jobs overseas don’t work. Instead, create good jobs by making things in America again. Put multinational corporations on notice – you want to sell here, you’ve got to produce here. End the unfair trade deals and crack down on offshore tax dodges. Invest in areas vital to our economy – innovation and research, education, rebuilding our decaying infrastructure – and pay for it by getting millionaires and big corporations to pay their fair share. Rebuild the middle class and revive the economy.
Cutting Medicare and education to “pay for” billions more in tax breaks for the wealthy is wrong. We need to take on the special interests that are rigging the rules. Stop rewarding CEOs for cooking the books. Raise the minimum wage. Empower workers to bargain for a fair share of the profits they help produce. This economy needs to work for Americans who work hard and play by the rules.
Populist progressive messages focusing on jobs and economic fairness were favored by at least five percentage points over conservative messages that stressed “wasted spending, big deficits, more regulations, and higher taxes,” in an August 2012 online survey for the Campaign for America’s Future and Lake Research. The conservative message, which promised “more freedom,” “lower deficits” and less business regulation, was less popular even though at the time of the survey Democrats trailed Republicans by 40 percent to 49 percent on which party was better able to handle the economy.