Opportunity Economics: The Way to Win in 2020 and Beyond
Democrats need a modern economic vision that excites the broadest possible coalition: committed Democrats, swing Independents, and new and sporadic voters. Old approaches won’t inspire new majorities.
Democrats should champion an aspirational agenda that focuses on the main economic experience of the American middle class: hard work is no longer enough to earn a good life. Too often, voters perceive Democrats as more concerned with the pay of the 1% than the paychecks of everyone else. To beat Trump and win across the country, that must change.
For some, work in the new economy is richly rewarded. But for most—white, black, Hispanic and Asian—it’s a painful struggle. Globalization has outsourced good-paying jobs. Technology has replaced workers. Systemic racism devastates communities of color. Unionization has shrunk. Capital is hard to come by. Skills don’t match available jobs. Wages are stuck. Health care is too expensive. And traditional pensions have vanished.
In short, America has an opportunity crisis—except for those in the “right” zip code, with the “right” degree, and who are lucky enough to avoid discrimination. To turn that around, Democrats should focus on using government to expand opportunity, with new ideas to ensure that everyone, everywhere has a shot at earning a good life where they live.
Opportunity Economics for the Digital Age should include:
A Trillion Dollar Opportunity Bank
Big businesses can get loans, but small businesses are getting choked. A 21st century bank for Main Street, not Wall Street, should provide $1 trillion in new lending so millions of small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs in cities, suburbia, and rural communities have the opportunity to start and expand their businesses and create jobs.
Apprenticeship Access for All
Millions of workers without a college degree need a predictable path to earning a middle class life. Every state has a public university system; they should also have an apprenticeship system available to all that’s just as expansive to train and help employ one million workers per year.
Universal Private Retirement Accounts
In this post-pension era, Social Security isn’t nearly enough to retire on. Every American worker should have both Social Security and robust private savings through a simple and portable private retirement account that requires employers to chip-in.
Zero on Fifteen
Tax rates on labor are far higher than on capital, despite the fact that most Americans earn only a paycheck—not dividends. Workers need a permanent wage break that eliminates all taxes on the first $15,000 of income, so every working- and middle-class American can keep more of what they’ve earned.
Health care stands in the way of earning a good life: costs are too high, 28 million still lack coverage, and the bureaucracy is overwhelming. We must fix and expand Obamacare with automatic enrollment and early-start Medicare to get to universal coverage, a single record to make health care simple, and price protection to stop companies from over-charging patients.
These are just a few big ideas to break down the barriers to opportunity posed by the Digital Age so that we can ensure that hard work earns a good life. Many more ideas are here. And to dig into our public opinion research that shows that this approach can build a broad coalition, see our presentation and poll results.