In exit polls for the midterm election cycle, which was catastrophic for Democrats, 70 percent of voters were concerned about the state of the U.S. economy and 78 percent did not believe the next generation would be better off than today's.
The eyes of those focused on the future leadership of America now turn to Hillary Clinton. Her time is now. Her moment has arrived. If and when she announces her candidacy for president, I suggest she express her resolve to bring full employment with fair wages to America, and announce a working group including Nobel laureates and leading economic thinkers to develop bold ideas to make full employment happen.
Think about it: almost three-quarters of midterm voters believe the economy must be urgently improved, but during the campaign there was no serious debate about how to achieve this. For five long years there has been no attempt by the president or from Congress to enact a dramatic plan to create new jobs!
Clinton should go big, go bold and become a change-wave champion of restoring the words "full employment" to the center of our political debates.
Many insiders are mystified as to why President Obama has not gotten more credit for the "improving economy." Here is why. The lower jobless rate does not include the record number of workers who are so depressed they have stopped looking for work. Lower jobless claims do not include the many unemployed workers who no longer qualify for benefits that have been cruelly cut. Real wages and benefits have been stagnant or declining for three decades. Those who suffer or fear economic pain do not believe anyone in Washington understands their pain or battles to better their future.
When 78 percent of voters tell exit pollsters their children will not be better off than they are, for them the American dream is dying. Clinton should become their voice to restore their dream by championing their cause for full employment with fair wages. She could aggressively promote a historic program to rebuild America's aging infrastructure, which would create millions of good-paying jobs. Democrats periodically talk about this but have not fought for it in a sustained way even though it would have strong support from Democrats, business leaders and many Republicans.
Clinton should forcefully promote a national minimum wage, which won widespread support on state ballots even during the GOP wave in the midterms. Democrats in Washington advocated a higher minimum wage and pay equity for women but did not wage the sustained battle in Congress or across the country that would mobilize citizens for action and drive voters to the polls.
A clarion call for full employment with fair wages would have a powerful political and symbolic resonance. Bringing together leading economic thinkers for a bold common purpose such as full employment would generate innovative new ideas and ignite a profound national discussion. This is what great presidents have always done.
For decades the mission to create full employment was a common cause for Democrats and many Republicans. In recent years, though, politicians and media have lowered our sights, standards and expectations. Full employment has disappeared from our national discourse even as voters repeatedly demand that unpopular presidents and Congresses take actions they do not take, and angrily vote in change elections that never bring change.
Clinton has one irreplaceable asset that no other presidential candidate can match. She was at the epicenter of a Bill Clinton presidency that is fondly remembered as a time of economic prosperity and massive job creation.
If Clinton champions the cause of full employment with fair wages, she will appeal to men and women of all races in every region of the nation. She will raise the spirits of our workers, elevate the standards of our discourse and lift the aspirations of our society as her moment arrives to assume center stage in American political life.