Posted byon February 12, 2009 at 12:22 PM EDT
Hello, and Welcome to the Middle Class Task Force Blog. My name is Jared Bernstein, and I am the Executive Director of the task force and Chief Economist and Economic Policy Advisor to the Vice President.
Thank you all so much for the outpouring of ideas for the task force that we have seen since our launch last week. In just eleven days, we have received over 34,700 messages. Please keep these messages coming, as the strength of the taskforce comes from all working together to build a strong middle class. After reviewing thousands of messages, I have pulled some that reflect common themes I’ve seen throughout the submissions.
First and foremost, many people like Ray from Stillwell, KS wrote in asking us to "Please define 'middle class.' Who is it?" Ray, that is a great question, and thanks for keeping us on point here at the taskforce. I think it’s important for us to use a broad definition of "middle class" that encompasses the various levels of middle class. The Census Bureau tells us that the median household income—the income of the household smack in the middle of the income scale—is about $50,000, so that’s certainly got to be considered a middle-class income. But a more comprehensive definition must go a lot further. My boss, the Vice President, often describes the "middle class" as any family that can’t afford to miss more than two or three paychecks without financial difficulty. Given job market turmoil, that’s an awfully timely way to think about the question. It used to be that the middle class was able to achieve the American dream of owning a decent home in a safe neighborhood with a good public school, having access to affordable health care, saving for college and retirement, and enjoying the occasional meal out, movie, and vacation. The problem is that many middle class families are no longer able to achieve this dream. The task force will focus on making the American dream accessible again to the middle class.
Syed from Fullerton, CA wrote "My idea relates to 21st century infrastructure building…[H]ere in Los Angeles, we have a broken public transport system, clogged highways and it is only going to get worse. We need futuristic ideas to deal with this. I believe this will fall into 21st century infrastructure building and create jobs."
Syed, I think that’s a great idea. I agree that investing in infrastructure is a key part of creating jobs, supporting the middle class and growing our economy. The first step in all this is passing the President’s Recovery Act. In it, over $100 billion dollars is dedicated to infrastructure projects -- many of which are ready to go right now. It’s the money we need to fix our roads, our bridges, our water systems -- and meet our infrastructure needs we have for the future. In addition, in the year head, the Taskforce will be looking beyond the President’s Recovery Act, for new and innovative ways to spur investment in infrastructure to ensure we have the operating systems we need for this 21st Century. But as John from Milwaukee, WI pointed out, "Not all jobs are good jobs. Many jobs created in the last 10 years have low wages with few benefits. Instead of rebuilding the middle class, these jobs have created a huge number of poor workers in our country." That’s why John, the task force is going to focus on making sure that the jobs we develop here in America are good jobs, and by that I mean jobs with good benefits, strong wages, access to healthcare, paid sick days and allow for some control over one’s schedule.
And of course, many other initiatives of the Obama administration are relevant here too, such as health care reform. To achieve broader coverage and lower costs is both essential public policy and would represent a real gain for middle-class families.
Folks also raised great points about many other issues including college affordability, tax credits, childcare and many other areas. I’m going to continue to blog about those issues and others, and I hope this is just the beginning of a great conversation. Please continue to visit www.astrongmiddleclass.gov and share your ideas, thoughts and comments.
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