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Breaking the Fall of the Middle Class: Assessing the Federal Budget Policy Approaches

November 19, 2013 03:00 PM

By Sophia Guevara, Wayne State University

A roundtable session on Friday, November 8, Breaking the Fall of the Middle Class: Assessing the Federal Budget Policy Approaches, featured presenters Robert Haveman, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Elizabeth Ford, Seattle University School of Law; Sally Clark, Seattle City Council; Gary Burtless, Brookings Institute; and Stephanie Cellini, George Washington University.

Elizabeth Ford’s presentation focused on the question of whether the raising of the minimum wage was the best approach to stabilizing the middle class. Her presentation covered the proposed minimum wage changes, the minimum wage in real and 2012 dollars, income disparities by race, and the future of collective bargaining.

Gary Butler helped attendees understand the issue of health care costs not only in the U.S. but in other countries. He asked the audience what thoughts they had on slowing the spending and change the current arc of health care costs in this country. Surprisingly, based on his data, no one pays more for healthcare than middle class U.S. citizens.

Stephanie Cellini presented on the topic of the rising cost of college. In her opinion, she felt college is essential for students hoping to move to the middle class. In order to make college a reality though, many students that come from middle and lower income families are paying for college with grants and loans. The current administration’s 2020 goal is to improve U.S. college graduation rates so that this nation can have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. In order to accomplish this though, college must be made a “better bargain for the middle class.”

Sally Clark, a member of the local government in Seattle, discussed current opportunities and challenges her community is facing. She discussed how she has been involved in trying to work with businesses and the non-profit sector in developing solutions that can improve the quality of life for both adults and children in Seattle. In addition to stressing the importance of program development to help tackle the issues, she also emphasized the importance of program evaluation to understand the kind of effect a certain program has had in the community and how this kind of measurement can help government officials decide whether or not similar solutions should be adopted.

 

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