When President Franklin Roosevelt proposed legislation for the New Deal at the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s he needed the support of the South to pass it in congress. As a result, the vast majority of Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans were excluded from most of the benefits and protections that were given to white people. Roosevelt's New Deal did save the country from an even worse and longer depression and laid the groundwork for prosperity for decades to come but millions were left out.
Now, in 2016 we are finally coming out of the Great Recession, yet millions of people have been left behind in poverty, low wage jobs, poor education, hunger and uncertainty about their future. The issue of economic inequality has moved from the back burner to the front of our awareness and consciences. Why do so few have so much? Why do so many have so little? How can that be healthy for a majority of our people and for our country as a whole? Where is there hope for change?
This election provides a unique opportunity for an economic sea change in America. The Republican candidate may set the stage for a major Democratic victory in November that ripples down to the Senate, House and state elections. That could then create a mandate for deep change in policies and programs on all levels. Bernie Sanders has successfully moved Hillary Clinton toward the progressive wing of the Democratic Party on many issues that are on the minds and in the hearts of a majority of Americans. A major win for the Democrats in November could transfer power in the Senate, several state governors and perhaps two or three dozen House of Representatives seats. It could set the stage for a "New Deal for A New Century" that would transform the economy and the politics of America. There are major issues that Clinton and Sanders basically agree on. She has said that she wants to work on several of the most important ones right away not just one or two. Let's take a look in a series of articles at what a New Deal for a New Century would look like. Let's start with work.
Justice for America's Workers
A recent Pew Research Center survey showed some startling figures. The share of income for middle-class Americans fell from 62 percent in 1970 to 43 percent in 2014. During the same time upper-income families increased from 29 percent to 49 percent. How can we reverse those numbers and help more people to re-enter the middle class and poor people to rise to it? There are many government programs that help but the place to start is incomes.
Democrats want to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over several years and index it to inflation. How many people will this effect? Well, 42 percent of all American workers earn less than $15 an hour. Think about the billions of dollars that would put back into the economy and the millions of people who would move out of poverty. Several large American cities and New York State, California and Washington D.C. are already moving in that direction. Legislators can learn from their experiences how to build the wage hikes out nationally without substantial job or business loss.
Democrats also want to pass a Family Values Package that would include paid sick leave, paid vacations and paid family leave. This should appeal to all those who believe and preach family values which have suffered dearly because parents are working two or three jobs and are rarely home together with their children. Somehow, many politicians who say they support family values do not support a living wage for those families. They need to be held accountable.
Justice for workers must also include strict enforcement of wage theft laws especially for the 30 million low wage workers and immigrants who lose more than FIFTY BILLION DOLLARS each year to greedy employers. This would also be a boon for the majority of legitimate businesses that face unfair competition from the crooks. Let's make sure that the Department of Labor, the Attorney General and the appropriate state officials do their jobs and prevent that money from being stolen or reclaim a majority of the money for the poorest of the poor working people in America.
During the best years for the middle class in the sixties and seventies about a third of all American workers were in unions. Now the number is 7 percent of non-government workers. As a result wages are lower and benefits are less for non-union workers. President Obama and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez have worked valiantly to balance the scales for America's workers but the National Labor Relations Board needs more power and workers need more freedom to organize through collective bargaining. This is something that the Democrats have not moved on seriously and must to support workers.
The Paycheck Fairness Act supported by the Democrats is a long overdue bill that would end discrimination against women by mandating equal pay for equal work.
Democrats have a whole series of bills to invest in job creation targeted to folks in depressed neighborhoods and young people 16 to 24 who have double the national unemployment. This could be a good beginning for a bi-partisan jobs bill.
As long as we are in a low wage economy people still need the $67 Billion they receive from the Earned Income Tax Credit, $58 billion from the Child Tax Credit and $80 Billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly called Food Stamps to make ends meet. These programs need to reach all who qualify.
Do politicians who oppose raising the Minimum Wage understand how much of the taxpayers money would be saved and business income would rise if workers earned a truly living wage and had time for living family values?
It is time for jobs, wages and benefits to be on top of the political agenda to meet the needs of all Americans.