March 13,2014

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Wyden Seeks Bold Ideas to Strengthen Middle Class

Chairman Outlines Five Areas Key to Create Lasting Economic Prosperity

WASHINGTON –Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today led a hearing examining innovative approaches to strengthen and expand the middle class. The committee heard compelling testimony from economists and other experts on the challenges the middle class is facing today and recommended policies to address those challenges.

“We have to focus on getting more people inside the middle class winners’ circle, because the alternative is unacceptable. If working families fall further behind now, still fewer will be able to climb America’s ladder of economic mobility and secure better futures for their kids,” Wyden said. “Our challenge as a committee is to come together on a bipartisan basis to build new pathways into a thriving, educated middle class and expand the winners’ circle for everyone.”

For decades, median earnings have remained stagnant while the costs of home ownership and education have skyrocketed. Changes in the economy at home and abroad have left millions of workers and families struggling to get ahead.

In addition to the ideas presented by the panel, Wyden discussed five policy areas to sustain and expand the middle class.

  • Wyden said improving education can be a key springboard to create economic opportunity. He called for improving student access to information so they can compare schools and programs based on completion rates, debt, employment and future earnings. Wyden emphasized the need to close the skill gap between workers and businesses through new approaches such as apprenticeships.
  • Wyden called for a renewed focus on savings so middle class Americans can accumulate wealth and ensure a more secure future. He recommended policies that would encourage saving early in life, including creating a savings account for every American child.
  • In addition to encouraging savings, Wyden noted the cost of treating chronic disease impacts millions of families and accounts for a large and growing portion of health care spending. Working to bring health care providers and patients together will keep people healthy and bring costs down.
  • Wyden said tax reform should create a tax code friendlier to the middle class – one that gives everyone a chance to get ahead. He suggested increasing the standard deduction, treating investments and wages in a more equitable manner, and improving how tax incentives are targeted so they help those who need it most. Wyden also said tax policy must encourage innovation and entrepreneurship so small businesses can grow and succeed.
  • Wyden concluded by reiterating the importance of strengthening the social safety net, both to assist Americans trying to reach the middle class and to protect them from poverty when times are tough. He cited a minimum wage increase, extended unemployment insurance and updated workforce programs to help match workers and businesses as policies that can help modernize the safety net.

Watch Wyden’s remarks here. The full text of the statement is available here.