In today’s fractious political climate, it is at least widely recognized that skilled blue-collar workers are often suffering from stagnant income growth and/or job loss. Unfortunately, the political parties often disagree on how to address this major problem. There are several different perspectives from which to view the overall situation:
Slow economic growth, averaging only 2% per year since the end of the Great Recession in June 2009. From 1950 – 2000 the economy grew at over 3% per year and produced a prosperous American middle class. Now, with strong headwinds from globalization and constantly improving technology, we badly need faster overall economic growth to provide more and better paying middle class jobs.
Income inequality. There is increasing income inequality in the U.S. even though the top 25% or so are doing very well. But raising taxes on the wealthy could slow down economic growth by discouraging new investment. In addition, redistribution of tax revenue to lower income Americans will not give them much of a boost.
Income insecurity. This is a huge problem for the many blue-collar workers who are struggling to make ends meet. There are a number of specific government actions which could alleviate this enormous societal problem.
Economic justice. Poverty in the U.S. is widely distributed geographically, with almost as much in rural and small town areas as in big cities. This could provide an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to work together to address a very challenging problem.
Conclusion. Our country has very serious economic and fiscal problems which are not being addressed because of severe partisan infighting in Congress. But slow economic growth, income insecurity and poverty affect a wide variety of people with different political outlooks. It’s inexcusable to allow partisan bickering to get in the way of finding workable solutions.
Over and over for the past several years I have been saying on this blog that our country’s two biggest problems are:
Slow Economic Growth, averaging just 2% since the end of the Great Recession in June 2012. Such slow growth has led to wage stagnation and job loss for many millions of blue-collar workers.
Massive debt accumulation, now amounting to 77% of GDP (for our public debt on which we pay interest), the worst it has been since right after the end of WWII. And the Congressional Budget Office predicts that it will continue to get steadily worse without changes in current policy.
Unfortunately, political gridlock in Washington ever since the beginning of the 112th Congress in January 2011 (when the Tea Party took control of the House) has prevented making progress on either of these two problems. That could perhaps change in the near future with the election of President Trump, at least with respect to faster growth.
But Mr. Trump’s election does not change a fundamental reality. Many progressives think that 2% growth is the “new normal” or, what’s worse, that any economic growth at all will simply require more fossil fuel use and therefore lead to even faster global warming. Furthermore, while many progressives have little interest in economic growth, they do care very much about economic justice. They think that the top 1% take home too much income and that, in addition, there is far too much poverty in America.
In today’s Omaha World Herald there is an article about the Human Resources Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee chaired by Rep. Adrian Smith (R, NE). This subcommittee has jurisdiction over temporary assistance for needy families, food stamps, low-income energy assistance, and unemployment benefits. It turns out that there is rural and small town poverty almost as much as in urban and suburban areas (see chart).
Conclusion. Poverty exists all over our country and so should be of concern to both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. Perhaps if the two sides can work together on this major issue, they can work together on other important issues as well. More later!