Achieving Middle-Class Economic Security Through Raising Wages and Rebuilding Wealth

“Raising Wages and Rebuilding Wealth” offers policy solutions to restore middle-class economic security in six crucial areas.

Endnotes and citations are available in the PDF and Scribd versions.

See also: Raising Wages and Rebuilding Wealth: A Roadmap for Middle-Class Economic Security

The U.S. middle class is finally seeing economic gains after more than a decade of stagnant incomes. The average middle-class household’s wealth fell 49 percent, or $82,500, between 2001 and the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2010. Middle-class wealth has begun to rebound but—as of 2013—remained $68,000 below its 2001 level.

The new Center for American Progress report “Raising Wages and Rebuilding Wealth” offers policy solutions to restore middle-class economic security in six crucial areas: jobs and wages, early childhood education, higher education, health care, housing, and retirement. It also includes four inserts that look specifically at immigrants; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, individuals; the disabled; and communities of color.

Below are some of the report’s key policy recommendations:

Jobs and wages

  • Use fiscal and monetary policy to support growth, including investing $500 billion in infrastructure and ensuring monetary policy targets full employment
  • Enable workers to share in productivity growth by restoring worker bargaining power, deploying profit-sharing, raising the minimum wage, and enacting protections against job-scheduling volatility
  • Promote investment by reorienting corporate incentives towards the long term
  • Adopt paid family and medical leave and paid sick days
  • Enact trade policy that promotes greater automaticity and higher standards
  • Support consumer financial protections and competition policy
  • Expand opportunity through workforce training, entrepreneurship, immigration reform, and eliminating barriers to employment for people with criminal records
  • Use tax policy to promote fairness by making changes that support middle- and low-income Americans while ensuring that financial gains are taxed fairly
  • Make employment more resilient with countercyclical national service, a subsidized jobs program, reforms to unemployment insurance, and a jobseeker’s allowance
  • Prevent future financial crises by protecting the Dodd-Frank Act and taking additional steps to mitigate emerging systemic risks

Child care

  • Enact a High-Quality Child Care Tax Credit that would put quality, affordable child care within reach for low-income and middle-class working families
  • Create a federal-state partnership to provide universal preschool

Higher education

  • Reshape the financial aid system to provide greater guarantees that college will be affordable for low- and middle-income students
  • Simplify the federal financial aid application to make it easier to apply for grants and loans from the U.S. Department of Education
  • Support affordability by making it easier for federal borrowers to make payments equal to an affordable share of their income
  • Ensure that students have high-quality options by creating accountability measures to monitor and reduce student loan default

Health care

  • Address employer cost shifting with increased transparency and shared savings. Health plans should include three free primary care visits per enrollee per year
  • Combat excessive drug prices. In addition to steps to address the overall price of drugs, out-of-pocket prescription drug costs for individuals should be capped

Housing

  • Increase access to mortgage credit by modifying fees facing borrowers and help prospective borrowers save for a down payment
  • Reduce costs for middle-class and aspiring middle-class households by strengthening programs that facilitate access to high-quality, affordable rental units

Retirement

  • Update Social Security provisions, including increasing the minimum benefit, modernizing survivorship and divorce benefits, and instituting a caregiver credit
  • Reform retirement tax incentives, defend the conflict of interest rule, and create a National Savings Plan so all workers can save in a high-quality retirement plan