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The New York Times

Biden’s proposals aim to provide greater support to the middle class

Perhaps the most striking difference between the middle class 50 years ago and the middle class today is a loss of confidence – confidence that you are doing better than your parents and that your children are doing better than you. President Joe Biden’s multi-billion dollar series of economic proposals aims to empower and rebuild an American middle class that feels like it is on changing ground. And it comes with an explicit message that the private sector alone cannot make that dream come true and that government has a central role to play. “If you look at periods of mutual growth,” said Brian Deese, director of the Biden National Economic Council, “you see that public investment has been absolutely critical, not excluding private investment and innovation, but in relocation.” the foundation. “Sign up for the New York Times’ The Morning newsletter. If the Biden administration finds its way, the reconstructed middle class would be built on more stable and much broader government support rather than the whims of the market. Some Proposals are designed to support parents who work: paid federal family and sick leave, cheaper childcare, free preschool classes. Others would use public investment to create jobs in areas such as clean energy, transport, and high-speed broadband. And a higher minimum wage would aim to Promoting low wage workers while a free community college would improve skills. Presidents putting their agendas in the middle class is not surprising given that nearly 9 in 10 Americans consider themselves members. The definition, of course, has always been a nebulous stew of money, credentials, and Culture that is anyway hl relied on lifestyles and aspirations as well as assets. However, what has captured an avalanche of studies, surveys, and statistics over the past half century is that middle-class life, once considered a guarantee of safety and comfort, is now often accompanied by an excruciating sense of vulnerability. Before the pandemic, unemployment was low and inventories were rising. But for decades, workers have increasingly faced low wages, sluggish wage growth and more irregular schedules, as well as a lack of sick days, parental leave and any kind of long-term security. At the same time, the cost of basic necessities such as housing, health care and education has devoured a much larger part of their income. The trend can be found in rich countries around the world. “For every generation since the baby boom, the middle-income group has shrunk and its economic influence has weakened,” concluded a 2019 report from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation The income spectrum – which the Pew Research Center defines as roughly between $ 50,000 and $ 150,000 – fell from 61% 50 years ago to 51% in 2019. Their share of the nation’s income fell even more sharply from 62% to 42% over the same period. Their prospects also clouded over. In the 1990s, Pew became increasingly optimistic that the next generation would be financially better off than the present, peaking at 55% in 1999. That number fell to 42% in 2019. The economy has created tremendous wealth in the last few decades, but much of that has been directed to a tiny cadre at the top. It took two wage earners to earn the income previously made on a single paycheck. “Higher income households have pulled out,” said Richard Fry, senior economist at Pew. The caustic inequality was just the beginning of a litany of blatant market failures, such as the inability to counteract ruinous climate change or meet the huge demand for affordable housing and health care. Companies have often channeled profits to buy back stocks rather than use them to invest or raise wages. The evidence grew, liberal economists argued that the prevailing economic approach – low taxes on the rich; Minimal government – did not produce the broad-based economic gains that sustained and grew the middle class. “The unregulated economy doesn’t work for most Americans,” said Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics. “The government has an important role to play,” he said, in regulating the excesses of the private sector, redistributing income and making significant public investments. Skeptics have warned of government overreach and the risk that deficit spending could trigger inflation, but Biden and his team of economic advisors have adopted the approach nonetheless. “It is time to grow the economy from the bottom and the center out,” said Biden in his speech to a joint congressional session last week. educated and well paid middle class. He underscored the point by highlighting workers as the dynamo that drives the middle class. “Wall Street didn’t build this country,” he said. “The middle class built the country up. And the unions built the middle class. “Of course, the economy that pushed millions of post-war families into the middle class was very different from the present one. Manufacturing, construction and mining jobs, formerly seen as the backbone of the workforce, have declined – as have unions, which fought aggressively for better wages and benefits. Currently, only 1 in 10 workers are union members, while around 80% of jobs in the US are in the service sector. And it can be expected that these types of jobs – in healthcare, education, childcare, the disabled, and elderly care – will continue to grow at the fastest pace. However, most of them do not pay middle-income wages. That doesn’t necessarily reflect their worth in an open market. Salaries for teachers, hospital workers, lab technicians, child minders, and nursing home workers are largely set by the government, which collects taxpayers’ money to pay their salaries and sets reimbursement rates for Medicare and other programs. They are also jobs that are held by significant numbers of women, African Americans, Latinos, and Asians. “When we think about what the right wage is,” Stiglitz asked, “should we take advantage of the discrimination against women and people of color, which we have done, or can we use this as a basis for building a middle class? ? “Biden’s spending plans – a $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure package called the American Jobs Plan and a $ 1.8 trillion plan for American families that focuses on social spending – aim to take into account how much the workforce and economy have changed in the past half century, and where they may be headed in the next.The President’s economic team was inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and the public programs that followed. Post World War II For example, the government helped millions of veterans get a college education and buy homes by offering tuition and subsidized mortgages, a mammoth highway system was created to support commercial activities, and billions of dollars in research and development were put in place later on the development of smartphone technology, search engines, de The human genome project, magnetic resonance imaging, hybrid corn and supercomputers were used. Biden also wants to repair roads and bridges, upgrade power grids and invest in research. However, his administration has also concluded that a 21st century economy requires much more, from expanded access to high-speed broadband, which more than a third of the rural population lacks, to parental leave and higher wages for childcare workers. “We now have 50 years of revolution in the women who enter the world of work,” and the most basic necessities that enable parents to fully participate in the workforce are still missing, said Betsey Stevenson, professor at the University of Michigan and former Member of the Obama Administration Council of Economic Advisers. She paused a few moments to take it in: “It’s absolutely breathtaking.” Shortly before the pandemic, there were more women than men in paid jobs. Stevenson noted that ensuring equal opportunities “includes the opportunity to receive quality early childhood education, the opportunity for a parent to stay with you when you are sick, and the opportunity for a parent to be with you when you are born To connect them. ”When it comes to offering that type of support, she added,“ The United States is an outlier compared to almost any developed country. ” The government is also keeping an eye on how federal education, housing, and business programs of earlier eras largely excluded women, African Americans, Asians, and others. The Biden plan includes grants to colleges that primarily serve non-white students, free community colleges for all, a universal preschool school, and monthly child payments. “This is no longer a model from the 1930s,” said Julian Zelizer, professor of political science at Princeton University. And everything has to be paid for by higher taxes on companies and the highest 1%. The passage in a strongly polarized congress is anything but certain. The multi-trillion dollar price tag and the prospect of an activist government have ensured Republican opposition in a Senate where the Democrats have the lowest possible majority. However, last year’s public polls showed that government is playing an increasingly greater role. “What is so remarkable about this moment is the notion that public investment can change America, that these are things that government can do,” said Felicia Wong, president of the left-wing Roosevelt Institute. “This is a fundamental restructuring of the way the economy works.” This article originally appeared in the New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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