DMI Blog

Amy Traub

New Progressive Voices Speak Up

The good news? It looks like we finally have a break in the endless media chatter about lipstick and moose-hunting. Too bad it took a meltdown of the nation’s financial sector to get us here. The financial crisis can teach us a number of important lessons, as Mark Winston Griffith makes clear in his excellent post this morning, but if there’s one overarching message, it’s that public policy matters. Decisions made in Washington about how to regulate, whether to bail out, who to tax and what to subsidize and support make a concrete difference in people’s lives. So it’s gratifying that we at last have some space in the public conversation to address policy questions – not hairstyles and verbal gaffes – this election season.

The urgent need to focus on policy is why DMI is so excited to contribute to New Progressive Voices, a just-released collection of essays by top progressive thinkers and leaders that defines an ambitious agenda for the next presidential administration. From infrastructure to trade policy, voting rights to health care, the volume sets forth values and policies that should guide the nation in the 21st century.

DMI’s contribution focuses on how to strengthen and expand the American middle class.

“Across the country, people have far more in common than anyone would guess from the polarized politics of recent decades. Most Americans hope to achieve and hold onto a middle-class standard of living. That means, among other things, a job that pays enough to support a family; a safe and stable home; good schools for our children and the chance to help them go to college; health care that doesn't bury us in debt; a dignified retirement; and time off work for vacations and major life events. We want these things not only for ourselves but for one another, because a large and stable middle class turns out to be the foundation of our wellbeing as families, as communities, and as a nation.”

Today rising prices, stagnating wages, declining benefits and diminished job security have made that middle-class standard of living increasingly precarious. One serious illness or the loss of a job can be enough to send a middle-class family tumbling into poverty or bankruptcy. Too often, politicians offer tax cuts as the answer to these middle-class economic woes. But, as we argue in the essay, tax cuts fail to address some fundamental problems: economic insecurity, jobs that don’t support a middle-class standard of living, and work arrangements based on the outdated assumption that we’ve all got a stay-at-home spouse to be a caregiver. DMI proposes some better solutions:

- The Employee Free Choice Act, which would streamline the process for employees to choose union representation, would help working people build power in the labor market, helping to turn more jobs into positions that can support a middle-class standard of living.

- As Governor Corzine and a range of New York and New Jersey activists and politicians so powerfully articulated on Monday, paid family leave – also known as family leave insurance – can bolster families coping with illness or the birth of child.

- An overhaul of the unemployment insurance system would provide more support to Americans who are out of a job.

We argue that these policies will enable more Americans to maintain a middle-class standard of living.

Amy Traub: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 1:10 PM, Sep 17, 2008 in Drum Major Institute | Economy | Employment | Labor | Middle-class squeeze | Progressive Agenda
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