States at Work: Progressive State Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class

Incomes for the middle class and the poor are stagnant or falling, while the costs of life’s necessities continue to rise, and the risks of falling behind economically grow.

Read the full report (CAP Action)

As our country inches its way out of the Great Recession and looks toward the future, it is clear that we need a new framework to guide our economic growth. The old trickle-down economic model of the past several decades is failing nearly everyone, save those at the very top.

Incomes for the middle class and the poor are stagnant or falling, while the costs of life’s necessities continue to rise, and the risks of falling behind economically grow. Our country faces a mounting economic opportunity deficit, as the American promise—the idea that if you work hard, you can achieve the good life, exemplified by a secure paycheck that grows year after year; a nice home in a safe neighborhood with decent schools; retirement savings; health care; some leisure time to spend with friends and family; and the ability to send your kids to college and pass them a bigger share of the American Dream—feels like it is slipping out of reach for far too many.

These problems are particularly acute for immigrants and people of color, who are rapidly becoming the majority population of the United States and will certainly be so by 2050. If current racial and ethnic disparities in income, employment, education, health, and other social services continue, we will not fully capitalize on the global economic advantages that we can derive from our increasingly diverse population, and we will not meet the nation’s 21st-century workforce requirements.

It is imperative that we chart a course that underscores American ideals of fairness, equity, and opportunity, recognizing that our country’s greatest strength has always been our people. In short, we need to rebuild a strong and growing middle class. Doing so is essential for a vibrant democracy and a healthy economy—and for our conception of what America is all about.

Read the full report (CAP Action)