The key obstacle to restoring the middle class By Jack Markell and Jonathan Cowan

The key obstacle to restoring the middle class By Jack Markell and Jonathan Cowan

Jack Markell, a Democrat, is governor of Delaware. Jonathan Cowan is president of the think tank Third Way.

Looking for an agenda that captures the imagination of our beleaguered middle class? Then solve this puzzle: From 2001 to 2014, the U.S. economy grew at an average annual rate of 1.9 percent — half the rate of the post-World War II boom period — and median household incomes flat-lined. Given that record, how can we double our growth rate and usher in a new era of middle-class prosperity?

Last week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) sought to answer that question, unveiling what he termed a “progressive contract with America.” As progressives ourselves, we can support many of the things on de Blasio’s list. We should raise the minimum wage, increase access to pre-K programs and find ways to make college more affordable. But the mayor’s proposal doesn’t come remotely close to solving the United States’ growth-and-wage riddle because it ignores the causes of the middle class’s decline.

The principal obstacle to restoring middle-class prosperity isn’t so much that our economic system is fundamentally unfair but that it has fundamentally changed. Let’s remember the past. After two world wars, the United States had so many advantages over the rest of the world that attaining robust, wage-increasing growth was as easy as falling out of a boat. Half of the world operated under a communist economic system that could not compete with us on any meaningful economic scale. Global and economic forces all worked in favor of our middle class. The country grew, and the middle class grew with it.

Not anymore.

Read the full article at: The Washington Post

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