A Coherent Progressive Agenda For Boosting Wages

Progressives always have a lot of politically viable proposals they typically make on helping “working families” improve their incomes. But as I think we’re finally beginning to realize, they typically are not presented in a way that relates them to a coherent economic strategy that is radically distinguishable from that of conservatives. So if, for example, a Democratic candidate campaigns on a minimum wage increase without explaining what’s been happening to wages, and why, and why low-end wages affect wages further up the income ladder, then it becomes all too easy for a Republican opponent to change the subject, or say they’re for higher minimum wages, too, but not this much and not now, etc., etc. It’s part of the ancient problem progressives in this country have had in transcending programs and proposals to discuss broad policy goals and the values they represent.

So that’s why Alan Blinder’s piece in the new issue of the Washington Monthly is so valuable: it presents a seven-plank platform for boosting real incomes for low-to-moderate income wage earners but does so with a carefully articulated explanation of the problems these proposals seek to address and how they relate to each other and differ from what the “other side” typically says.

Three proposals deal with boosting worker productivity (quality pre-K for kids who can’t afford it, better K-12 education in poor areas, much more vocational education and apprenticeships), three with shrinking the gap between productivity and wages (a higher minimum wage, helping unions survive, and running a high-pressure economy), and one with increasing post-tax income (boosting the EITC, especially for workers without kids). None of these proposals is terribly new, but each proposal benefits from being part of a package that’s clearly explained as aiming at restoring the link between economic growth and middle-class prosperity. And it leaves readers nodding their heads instead of yawning.

Check it out.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.