We will not be able to get Washington’s economy – or the nation’s – on track to sustainable growth without rebuilding a financially secure middle class.
Working families in Washington state and across the nation were already highly stressed prior to the collapse of housing and financial markets. Throughout this decade, the majority of families have faced job insecurity, stagnating wages, and greater responsibility for ever-rising health care costs, even while the overall economy grew, worker productivity rose, and corporate profits soared. In fact, income inequality in the United States has been growing for 30 years, and by the fall of 2008 had reached the most extreme level since the 1920s.
The precarious condition of many families’ finances and the crisis of consumer confidence we now face owe their intensity to these longer standing problems.
The looming state budget deficit is largely due to the global economic crisis, but also has deeper roots – in an outmoded and regressive tax system. Balancing the state budget solely through cuts will slow our state’s recovery from recession and undermine the future of our children, families, and businesses. On the other hand, by raising new revenues for strategic investments and simultaneously modernizing workplace standards and social insurance systems, we can come out of this crisis on the road to a sustainable 21st century economy where opportunity and prosperity are more broadly shared.
As we consider ways to stimulate the economy and plug the gaping hole in the state budget, we should give priority to policies and programs that:
- Put money into the pockets of people who will immediately spend it locally;
- Build the infrastructure of transportation and energy-efficient technology our 21st century economy needs;
- Educate and train the workforce for that economy;
- Modernize and strengthen our state tax structure to better finance both immediate and long term needs; and
- Modernize workplace standards and benefits to serve today’s families and businesses.