State of the Economy, August 2014

Congress needs to cut the party-line bickering and refocus its efforts on policies that help American workers, say Christian E. Weller and Jackie Odum.

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idea light bulbLabor Day celebrates one of our country’s greatest attributes: the American worker. As the U.S. Department of Labor says, “It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” Despite slow but modest gains, this month’s economic data show that our current economy is still not working for American workers. Wages are stagnant, long-term unemployment is still high by historical standards, and poverty continues to be widespread. At the same time, five years after the end of the Great Recession, the very wealthy have seen substantial income gains due to a prolonged stock market rally built on high corporate profits that skyrocketed in the middle of the recession. While the nation’s wealthiest reap the benefits, America’s working class is left behind and face tremendous economic insecurity.

Our policies need to reflect the idea that with hard work comes economic security and opportunity. Policymakers need to implement policies that promote inclusive prosperity and economic mobility for all working families. Already, the president has taken steps to help workers. Through a series of executive actions, he has promoted responsible contracting by encouraging pay transparency, enforcing disclosure requirements that incentivize compliance with wage and workplace safety laws, and strengthening rules on employer retaliation. Yet these are only small victories in the fight to address a much larger problem.

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