What it will take to revive the middle class

Hillary Clinton has kicked off her presidential campaign making all the right noises. Trouping around Iowa with a handful of aides (and a media scrum that could fill Yankee Stadium), she has focused, however hazily, on the scourge of economic inequality and the concomitant plutocratization of American democracy. The “deck is stacked,” she has said, in favor of the rich; CEO pay, she’s lamented, has soared from 20 times that of their employees to 300 times, while hedge fund managers pay lower taxes than nurses or truckers; we need, she’s said, a constitutional amendment to diminish the role of money in politics.

As if to confirm her judgment that these themes resonate with voters, her first-week campaigning has coincided with nationwide demonstrations calling for the minimum wage to be raised to $15, even as the customary “Tax Day” demonstrations protesting high marginal tax rates have faded to near invisibility since hardly anyone believes marginal rates are high. Clinton’s rollout has also coincided with the release of a study documenting just how pervasive low-wage work has become in the United States. This week, the National Employment Law Project reported that fully 42 percent of U.S. workers make less than $15 an hour — a sea of workers that extends beyond such usual suspects as janitors and food servers; even once decently paid employees such as auto assembly-line workers now work for a median hourly wage that has descended to $15.30.

– The Washington Post

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