GOP Has Opportunity on Middle Class Economics

In the early days of the Presidential campaign, there has been a surprising movement towards consensus among the GOP field. On major issues like Common Core and immigration reform the candidates have, with near unanimity, taken similar positions to appeal to the broad electorate.  Now, the Christian Science Monitor notes that a similar phenomenon is taking place on the economic front, where the GOP field is shifting towards mobility for the middle class:

We’ve just heard Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton frame her campaign launch around the notion that “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.”

But before that, it’s also been Republicans sounding notes of alarm about the economic condition of ordinary Americans. Though best known in recent years for proposing broad tax cuts to promote economic growth, this time they are talking up the need for growth plus something more – rebuilding ladders of upward mobility.

… The two parties differ in their diagnosis of the problem and on solutions. But to a considerable extent, they are singing from similar song sheet: They agree that ordinary Americans – call them “working” or “middle-class” or “average” – are financially strained and that the challenge merits some focused policy attention.

A message of economic mobility would be a welcome change from the usual refrain of lower taxes by Republicans which, while important, gives the impression that they care more about business owners than workers.  The article gives several examples of GOP candidates like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush trying to address middle class concerns, but there is still a missing element to their pitch. CS Monitor notes that in the 1970s:

Worker compensation began rising at a slower pace than did workplace productivity. It hasn’t helped that, in the current recovery, wage growth has essentially stalled…

Wage stagnation and a rising cost of living have done more to cut into economic mobility than most taxes.  There has been some tentative moves toward acknowledging this already, but so far only a few, like Mike Huckabee, have even tentatively proposed tackling the root causes of wage erosion, such as monetary policy. I hope this is the cycle where we hear a Presidential candidate making a strong, clear case for ending wage stagnation and promoting equitable prosperity.

Nick Arnold is a researcher for American Principles in Action.