In the past decade, the economy has brought little good news for the middle class.
As we found in our State of Working Pennsylvania report (keystoneresearch.org/working pa), the median income of a four-person Pennsylvania family has declined by more than $6,000 since 2000. In many ways, it was a lost decade for working families.
A lack of jobs is our No. 1 short-term problem.
Yet policy choices at the state and federal levels have put the brakes on our economy when we should be pressing the accelerator. Cuts in education, infrastructure and other public investments have strangled consumer demand in local communities, increasing Pennsylvanias jobs shortage by 74,000 jobs in the past 12 months. So where do we go from here?
Does another lost decade await us? Without a change in policy it does.
Economic forecasters project that unemployment will remain too high for most of the decade, with middle-class incomes likely lower in 2018 than at the end of the 1990s economic expansion.
We think most Pennsylvanians believe in opportunity, robust democracy and economic fairness. To honor these widely shared values, we need a new economic policy direction.
Stephen Herzenberg Harrisburg
The writer is executive director of the Keystone Research Center.