Next week, the House and Senate will release their fiscal year 2016 budget blueprints, the clearest statement of their priorities for the country. Meanwhile, several prominent congressional Republicans have been underscoring their concern about rising inequality, the struggles of working and middle-class families, and the increasing challenges many Americans face in getting ahead in life despite their hard work.
There is little dispute that economic inequality has widened in recent decades, as the gains from economic growth have concentrated among the wealthy few. This concentration of income and wealth has translated into flat or declining wages for working- and middle-class families. At the same time, the costs of the pillars of a middle-class life—child care, higher education, housing, health care, and retirement—are all rising faster than wages, squeezing the budgets of everyday Americans. In fact, for a married couple with two children, the costs of these basics rose by more than $10,000 between 2000 and 2012 while that couple’s income remained essentially flat.
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