The American Opportunity Agenda
Empowering Working Families, Rewarding Work and Helping Businesses Compete
Americans today are doing everything they can just to get by, provide for their kids, and give them the best possible chance to succeed. But for millions of American families, it feels as though no matter what they do, how hard they work, everything is working against them. Day-to-day expenses keep going up, while paychecks are staying the same, or in too many cases, disappearing entirely. The middle class is slipping further and further behind and it is harder to even make it there. Contrary to the American value that hard work is rewarded – the real value of workers’ wages is on the decline. As a result, families can’t even keep up, let alone get ahead. This squeeze on the middle class didn’t happen overnight.
Even before the financial crisis that sent our economy plummeting to the worst point since the Great Depression middle class families were fading away in a growing economic gap. But all along, the basic dreams of the American middle class have not changed. The dream to get an education and a good-paying job, own your own home, raise a family and send your kids to college and have enough at the end of the day for a secure retirement.
But the keys to the middle class have changed. The skills and tools that all but guaranteed a place in the middle class for our parents and grandparents generations – won’t always cut it today because how our economy works has changed. Even more importantly, the American family – and the face of the American workforce has changed significantly. It is because of this dramatic change in the face of the workforce that we need to come up with common sense solutions to address these challenges. The American Opportunity Agenda offers five simple solutions to Empower Working Families, Reward Work and Help Businesses Compete:
Senator Gillibrand's FAMILY Act would create an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration to collect fees and provide benefits. This trust would be funded by employee and employer contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each, creating a self-sufficient program that would not add to the federal budget.
The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 over the next three years, with future increases indexed to the rate of inflation. It would also raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in more than 20 years.
The Strong Start For America's Children Act would establish a federal-state partnership to increase the number of high quality early childhood educators and improve the student to teacher ratios in preschools. It would also increase the hours per day and weeks per year families have access to high quality early education programs.
Senator Gillibrand is championing a comprehensive solution to increase the availability, affordability and quality of child care. Her plan would provide tax cuts to help pay for child care, incentivize businesses to offer child care or allow more parents to work from home, and expand access to programs that help families afford child care.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes employers can use to shortchange workers, hold big corporations accountable for pay inequity, make it easier for workers to pursue back pay, and empower working women to be appropriately and accurately compensated for their work and value.