The American Dream used to mean that if you put in a hard day's work, you could expect good wages, benefits, and a better life for your kids. But the kinds of jobs that can provide a solid middle-class life in return for hard work are in short supply-unemployment remains high, earnings are volatile, and hard-won benefits are being lost. For the first time, the majority of Americans believe their children will not be better off than them. The future of the middle class, which has been the backbone of our nation's economy for more than half a century, is at risk.
But all of this is changing and the middle class is now threatened. Median income is no higher than it was a decade ago and only workers with at least a bachelor's degree earn more than their counterparts a generation ago. The nation's once vibrant manufacturing sector-the engine that drove the growth of the post-war middle class-has gradually declined over the last three-plus decades. The bulk of recent job growth has been in the service sector, where unions are less prevalent, pay is lower, and benefits are limited or non-existent.
Now is the time for citizens, workers, employers, and policymakers to come together once again to rebuild pathways to the middle class, create good jobs with fair pay and decent benefits, and ensure that prosperity is broadly shared for the next generation.
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