Good Sports: Sanger HS quarterback headed to Harvard

The New York Times

Biden’s Proposals Aim to Give Sturdier Support to the Middle Class

Perhaps the most striking difference between the middle class of 50 years ago and the middle class today is a loss of confidence — the confidence that you were doing better than your parents and that your children would do better than you. President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar suite of economic proposals is aiming to both reinforce and rebuild an American middle class that feels it has been standing on shifting ground. And it comes with an explicit message that the private sector alone cannot deliver on that dream and that the government has a central part to play. “When you look at periods of shared growth,” said Brian Deese, director of Biden’s National Economic Council, “what you see is that public investment has played an absolutely critical role, not to the exclusion of private investment and innovation, but in laying the foundation.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times If the Biden administration gets its way, the reconstructed middle class would be built on a sturdier and much broader plank of government support rather than the vagaries of the market. Some proposals are meant to support parents who work: federal paid family and medical leave, more affordable child care, free prekindergarten classes. Others would use public investment to create jobs, in areas like clean energy, transportation and high-speed broadband. And a higher minimum wage would aim to buoy those in low-paid work, while free community college would improve skills. That presidents pitch their agendas to the middle class is not surprising given that nearly 9 out of 10 Americans consider themselves members. The definition, of course, has always been a nebulous stew of cash, credentials and culture, relying on lifestyles and aspirations as much as on assets. But what cuts across an avalanche of studies, surveys and statistics over the past half-century is that life in the middle class, once considered a guarantee of security and comfort, now often comes with a nagging sense of vulnerability. Before the pandemic, unemployment was low and stocks soared. But for decades, workers have increasingly had to contend with low pay, sluggish wage growth and more erratic 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 essentials like housing, health care and education have been gulping up a much larger portion of their incomes. The trend can be found in rich countries all over the world. “Every generation since the baby boom has seen the middle-income group shrink and its economic influence weaken,” a 2019 report from the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation concluded. In the United States, the proportion of adults in the middle bands of the income spectrum — which the Pew Research Center defines as roughly between $50,000 and $150,000 — declined to 51% in 2019 from 61% 50 years ago. Their share of the nation’s income shrank even more over the same period, to 42% from 62%. Their outlook dimmed, too. During the 1990s, Pew found rising optimism that the next generation would be better off financially than the current one, reaching a high of 55% in 1999. That figure dropped to 42% in 2019. The economy has produced enormous wealth over the past few decades, but much of it was channeled to a tiny cadre at the top. Two wage earners were needed to generate the kind of income that used to come in a single paycheck. “Upper-income households pulled away,” said Richard Fry, a senior economist at Pew. Corrosive inequality was just the beginning of what appeared to be a litany of glaring market failures, like the inability to head off ruinous climate change or meet the enormous demand for affordable housing and health care. Companies often channeled profits to buy back stock instead of using them to invest or raise wages. The evidence was growing, liberal economists argued, that the reigning hands-off economic approach — low taxes on the wealthy; minimal government — was not producing the broad-based economic gains that sustained and grew the middle class. “The unregulated economy is not working for most Americans,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics. “The government has an important role,” he emphasized, in regulating the private sector’s excesses, redistributing income and making substantial public…

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