7. Protect middle-class wages.
The federal minimum wage is worth more than a dollar less per hour, adjusted for inflation, than in 1968.
The people at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder are disproportionately hurt during times of economic crisis. A boost in the minimum wage would reward these employees for their hard work and help the economy by boosting their consumption of goods and services.
If that’s not reason enough, recent studies show that raising the minimum wage is good for people and good for the economy even in hard times. It reduces turnover, makes employees work harder, encourages job training by businesses, and can increase demand for goods and services. And it does not decrease employment, as opponents claim.
Congress should raise the minimum wage.
8. Give workers a voice.
A key reason for mounting income inequality is the unequal distribution of political and workplace power. Indeed, countries with high union representation, such as Sweden, tend to have less income inequality. In the United States, employers are using increasingly ruthless tactics to push unions out of the workplace. Meanwhile, labor laws have failed to keep up and have actually been weakened.
The result has been devastating for the 99 percent. The share of U.S. national income going to the middle class has steadily declined as the percentage of the population in labor unions has fallen. At the same time, the top 1 percent’s share of national income has skyrocketed.
Congress should pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would protect workers’ right to join a union and make it harder for management to threaten organizing workers
9. Help Americans get back to work.
There is no more pressing problem for the 99 percent than the shortage of jobs. This isn’t just a problem for the 14 million unemployed. Lack of demand for labor keeps wages low, while the buying power of those stagnant wages is eroded by rising prices. That’s why Congress should pass the president’s American Jobs Act, either in full or in pieces. It’s the least they can do.
The bill introduced in September will create as many as 2 million new U.S. jobs by putting people to work repairing the country’s infrastructure, cutting taxes to spur consumer spending and hiring, and preventing up to 280,000 teacher layoffs.
It will also prevent more than 2 million jobless people from losing their unemployment insurance by doing what Congress has always done during periods of high unemployment: extending benefits to the long-term unemployed. And failing to extend benefits could lead to nearly a million more job losses.
The sign of a healthy economy is the well-being of all families, not just corporate profits and a rising stock market. The U.S. economy today is not working for most Americans and that’s why people across the country are demanding attention—and answers.
These nine measures are not a cure-all for what ails us but they will go a long way to making the economy work again for most Americans, not just the privileged.
And they will help restore the promise of the American Dream: If you work hard and play by the rules, you can build a good life for yourself and your family.
This post was originally published by the Center for American Progress.
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