Rebuilding Our Middle-Class – Jobs, the Economy, and Small Business

We must rebuild our shrinking middle-class and provide opportunity for upward economic mobility.  That starts with aligning the skills training of the workforce with the needs of employers and providing economic opportunity for those who were raised here, so they’ll also raise their families here and expand our regional economic impact.  I’ve heard far too many stories of young adults that moved out of the area to pursue job opportunities elsewhere.  I’ve also talked to several area employers that have told me they’re unable to find skilled workers, which points to a stark mismatch of local skills and opportunities.  That needs to change. 

The importance of education cannot be overstated in insuring a robust middle class.  Making post-secondary education more affordable is integral to rebuilding our economy, whether that’s for high school graduates or those who’ve been out of the classroom for a few years, so they can return to school and work towards improving their wages. Technical school and career programs offered to high school students are also teaching the next generation the skills necessary to be an attractive job applicant. I’ve toured several of these schools and have been very impressed with the programs they offer – some with a 100% job placement rate.

There are several things we can do to increase incomes for middle-class families.  The minimum wage needs to be increased, because while wages have stagnated, cost of living has risen with inflation over the past fifty years. I don’t need to tell you that your dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to.  This would not only help those earning the bare minimum, but also increases the community’s spending power and decrease reliance on public assistance programs.  I would also advocate for a middle-class tax break so families have more money to infuse into the local economy.

I support the right of organized labor to collectively bargain for better working conditions and wages. Their advocacy for workers raises the wages and working conditions for even those people working outside of unions by creating competitive employment packages.  I also support ensuring equal pay for equal work, because families cannot sustain financially when one member is not being paid fairly.

Our district is made up of small businesses that serve as the backbone of our district’s economy.  We must make sure that small businesses are treated fairly in the way they are taxed and regulated, without sacrificing consumer protections. We don’t want to regulate them out of business, so we must take the same approach I did when I was Secretary of Agriculture. When businesses would come to my department with regulatory issues, we would help them find their way into compliance instead of forcing them out of business.