Nothing is more debilitating or devastating than poverty. The Census Bureau says that over 37 million Americans are living in poverty, with nearly 103 million living in near-poverty. In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson waged a War on Poverty that elevated a generation. 20 years later, compassionate capitalism was replaced by trickle-down economics that spread the promise of wealth to all by cutting taxes for the rich. Today, nine million children go to bed hungry. Millions of hard-working Americans are forced to choose between food and utilities; with millions more living on the brink, a single car repair or hospital visit away from disaster. Rather than “lifting all boats,” as was promised, it left millions without even a life raft. Once more, let’s enact an economic vision that protects Social Security, ensures fiscal responsibility; and guarantees opportunity and prosperity for all Americans, not just the wealthy and well-connected.
A Regional Minimum Wage
In 2009, Congress raised the federal minimum wage to $7.25. Two economic recessions and a global pandemic later – millions of Americans, students in particular, are still earning the same starvation wages. All of us agree on the need for a higher wage. However, while America may be one country – we are a collection of thousands of different micro-economies. That’s why it’s time for a regional minimum wage that reflects these differences and helps working families wherever they live.
This new approach would immediately raise wages and lift millions of working people out of poverty. It would also break the decades-long logjam in Washington where the wage floor is lifted inadequately once every ten years because high-cost areas need a far different minimum than the low-cost areas that are over-represented in Congress.
For example, the cost of a hamburger or haircut is far different in New York City than in Clarksburg, Mississippi. It makes sense to adopt a regional minimum wage where the benchmark national minimum wage would be set at the beginning of each year to one-half of the hourly wage for nonsupervisory workers. According to data from 2019, that wage would be $11.55.
Each city and rural community would be placed in one of five categories based on living costs. The minimum wage would be either slightly below that benchmark for low-cost areas or slightly above for high-cost ones. Local and state governments would still be free to pass higher minimum wages. With a minimum wage that reflects the cost-of-living disparities between urban and rural communities, we can ensure that all workers are paid a living wage in their local economy. We must also eliminate the so-called “tipped minimum wage” – allowing workers in the service industry to be exploited.
Cut Taxes for Working Families
At a time when the cost of living is putting a strain on everyone’s wallets, we need to create an economy that works for everyone – not just the wealthy and well-connected – by cutting taxes for working families and giving everyday Americans an extra bit of breathing room. That means:
- Lowering costs for families through the Inflation Reduction Act.
- Strengthening our supply chains to be more resilient & ensure they start and end right here at home.
- Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
- Cracking down on excessive junk fees.
- Unleashing American energy production & independence.
- Cutting the deficit by ensuring billionaires pay their fair share.
- Reinstating & raising the Child Tax Credit.
- Creating good-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree.
- Eliminating the sales tax on baby formula, diapers, school supplies, athletic uniforms, and children’s clothing items to give working families some much-needed economic relief.
Safeguard Social Security & Medicare
At the heart of the American Dream is the ability of our nation’s seniors to retire with dignity without fear of poverty. Social Security and Medicare aren’t just programs – they’re promises of a dignified retirement after decades of hard work. At a time when radical partisans seek to strip seniors of their benefits, we must:
- Defend Social Security & Medicaid against partisan attacks.
- Drive down prescription drug costs for seniors.
- Protect Social Security & Medicaid for decades to come by eliminating the cap on payroll taxes to raise revenue and balance the scales. The current cap is $160,200 – meaning that billionaires pay the same as someone who makes that same amount.
- New Deal for the 21st Century
- America First in Quality of Life
- Life, Liberty, & Pursuit of Happiness
- Make America Cool Again
- Marshall Plan for America
- Wage A War on Poverty
- Guarantee Healthcare to All
- World-Class Education
- Defend Our Democracy
- A Green New Century
- America Open For Business
- End the War on Drugs
- Women’s Rights Are Human Rights
- Reclaim Our Freedom
- Safe Streets & Secure Neighborhoods
- Affordable Housing for All
- A Welcoming Nation of Immigrants
- Moral Global Leadership
- Tackle the Teenage Mental Health Crisis
- Protect the Second Amendment & Second Graders