Both the economy and jobs remain front and center on the minds of Americans. Considering that the United States is officially in the sixth year of an economic recovery, this would be surprising were it not for the economic data telling us that the nation is going through an unusually weak economic expansion. Economic productivity, which generates the resources for future increases in living standards, has been growing more slowly in this recovery than in any other recovery of at least equal length since World War II. Job growth has therefore been modest and is only now, albeit slowly, picking up steam. Many vulnerable groups struggle with high unemployment rates. Moreover, middle-class incomes are falling, household debt remains high, and the housing market—which generally drives the economy to faster growth after a recession—is consequently still stuck at a relatively low level, holding back economic growth. To make matters worse, governments—federal, state, and local—engaged in wrongheaded austerity measures in the middle of an already weak recovery and further slowed economic growth. This all adds up to an economy caught in the doldrums, leaving middle-class Americans worried about their future.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are substantial resources to build a stronger economy. Corporate profits levels are high and continue to grow, incomes at the top have risen strongly, and government budget deficits are shrinking and, in some cases, even turning into surpluses. A different fiscal and regulatory regime that puts people first would lead to faster growth that benefits everyone, not just the lucky few. This means investing in the future through infrastructure spending on roads, bridges, and schools; making the tax code simpler, fairer, and more efficient; raising wages through a higher minimum wage; making it easier to join a union; and offering meaningful benefits, such as health insurance, retirement savings, and paid sick leave to all workers.
For more on this idea, please see: