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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Holzer Probes Challenge of Increasing Working-Class Earnings

Now that the pundits and political activists are more focused than ever before in the post-war period on the importance to Democrats of winning a larger share of white working-class voters (thanks in some measure to TDS efforts), the “how” question arises and demands some answers. Brookings Senior Fellow for Economic Studies Harry J. Holzer offers some policy ideas for increasing compensation of non-college workers of all races in his article, “Jobs for the working class: Raising earnings among non-college graduates,” which may prove helpful to Democraic campaigns. As Holzer writes,

Federal and state efforts to improve earnings among non-college educated Americans should focus on: 1) Improving education and skills programs at community colleges while incentivizing employers to create better jobs; 2) Raising job availability in depressed geographic regions; 3) Reducing barriers to work associated with opioids and criminal records; and 4) Strengthening work incentives by “making work pay“ in low-wage jobs and reforming income support programs like SSDI.

Holzer concedes that such an agenda would certainly require “significant new expenditures at both the federal and state levels.” He believes that “some actions, like efforts to spur employment in distressed regions, should grow slowly until more evidence is generated about their cost-effectiveness,” but “the overall package of policies outlined above should be implemented robustly.”

Regarding the degree of difficulty in implementing his agenda, he notes that “the federal fiscal outlook has been severely damaged in the past few months by the passage of reckless tax cuts as well as spending increases.” He leaves no doubt about the need to correct the GOP’s “extremely regressive” tax policy and  “rescinding some if not all tax cuts to allow new spending of the type outlined here…”

With the unemployment rate relatively low, it is important for Democrats to get out front on the need to reduce income inequality and boost the real wages of working-class voters of all races. Democratic candidates and campaign directors should give a thoughtful read to Holzer’s entire Brookings essay for starters.

3 comments on “Holzer Probes Challenge of Increasing Working-Class Earnings

  1. Karen Keiser on

    Wage stagnation is not limited to non-college graduates. Wage stagnation exists across many college degree professions. From journalists to social workers, wages are flat. Wage stagnation isn’t caused by lack of education and skills. I suspect it is in part created by a lack of union density and also a few very large employers setting the bar lower and lower for both wages and benefits. We need new thinking on this issue.

    • Victor on

      Precisely. The social contract has been broken. Even professionals that used to be occupied full time now are paid per diems or even per hour on a zero guaranteed hours basis. Liberal social services and advocacy organizations also do this. There is no shame on doing this or rotating unpaid generations of interns in and out to illegally work.


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