Asking the right questions

ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS…. It’s not yet clear what this new task force will do, but the goals are certainly encouraging.

President-elect Barack Obama on Sunday announced the creation of a task force to bolster the standard of living of middle-class and working families in America, tapping Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to lead the effort with four members of the cabinet.

“Our charge is to look at existing and future policies across the board and use a yardstick to measure how they are impacting the working- and middle-class families,” Mr. Biden said in a statement on Sunday. “Is the number of these families growing? Are they prospering?”

The effort, which is called the White House Task Force on Working Families, is intended to focus on improving education and training for working Americans as well as protecting incomes and retirement security of the middle class. The group, officials said, will work with labor and business leaders.

The task force is the first discrete assignment for Mr. Biden. He said the Obama administration would measure the success of its economic policy by whether the middle class was growing and prospering. Other members of the group include the secretaries of labor, education, commerce, and health and human services, as well as the top economic advisers to the president.

Speaking with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Biden said, “I’m going to chair this group and it is designed to do the one thing we use as a yardstick of economic success of our administration, is the middle class growing? Is the middle class getting better? Is the middle class no longer being left behind? And we’ll look at everything from college affordability to after-school programs. The things that affect people’s daily lives.”

I’m generally skeptical of task forces, commissions, and blue-ribbon committees, but whatever Biden’s panel ends up doing, I’m at least glad someone in the executive branch is going to start asking these questions for a change.

As Yglesias noted yesterday, “Over the past eight years to a remarkable degree the focus has been on trying to put as good a spin as possible on things rather than on trying to actually improving wages and living standards for the bottom 80 percent of Americans.”

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