While the economy is steadily improving, this recovery has done little or nothing for the household budgets of many middle-class and low-income Americans. This dynamic is dramatically illustrated by data compiled by economist Emmanuel Saez, which show that the top 1 percent of Americans reaped 58 percent of all income gains from 2009 to 2014. Meanwhile, median wages have been stagnant since before the Great Recession, while at the same time, a middle-class standard of living has grown more expensive.
The federal budget should address this challenge by building an economy that works for everyone—not just for the wealthy few. Instead, lawmakers have mostly spent the past several years implementing a misguided austerity agenda that pushes widespread economic growth further out of reach. Congress appears determined to enact more austerity measures this year—an action that would mean extending budget cuts from earlier years and deepening cuts to some sectors.
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