Last week, President Obama asked the American people to keep his liberal economic policies at the front of their minds this election season. Or as he put it: "These policies are on the ballot — every single one of them."
We agree with the president's statement — inconvenient though it may be for his liberal House and Senate allies whose candidacies represent those policies this fall.
Of course this year's elections are about President Obama's out-of-touch agenda and its effects on hardworking American families. And they're about the contrast between Washington liberals — who either don't understand or don't care about the harm their agenda has done to working- and middle-class families — and conservative reformers, who know the Obama Economy isn't working for most Americans and are offering new policies to get us back on track.
While Obama and others on the Left decided to declare victory and pat one another's backs in the wake of last week's jobs report — a decidedly mixed bag for working families — conservatives understand that the picture isn't so rosy for most American workers, who, as Jim Pethokoukis writes, "probably aren’t celebrating when they look at their paychecks."
The facts are pretty stark: 97,000 people left the U.S. work force, and labor participation is at a low we haven't experienced since the late 1970s. "Average hourly earnings were flat last month," writes Pethokoukis, a contributor to YG Network's Room To Grow, and "[o]nce you subtract inflation, wages are pretty much flat."
This wage stagnation comes at a time when many of the hallmarks of middle-class life — like healthcare, higher education, raising children — are costing more and more each year. As Peter Wehner writes in Room To Grow, "rising cost of living amid stagnant wages has a lot to do with (the) worries and pressures" of middle-class Americans struggling to maintain their standard of living, as well as the difficulty many low-income Americans experience trying to rise into the middle class.
The result has been a brutal sense of pessimism among working families. As the Wall Street Journal notes, polls show that "merely 42 percent think the American dream that 'if you work hard, you'll get ahead' remains true, down from 53 percent in 2012 and 50 percent in 2010," and other public opinion research shows that just 21 percent actually believe the recession has ended.
President Obama and his allies are happy to celebrate mixed results like those in the September jobs report. But after six years and countless promises, mixed results aren't good enough anymore.
We need a new playbook that grows our economy and creates more good-paying jobs. One that gives working families a break so they can catch their breath and start regaining the ground they've lost over the last six years. One that actually tackles the high costs of big family priorities like healthcare and college—instead of just subsidizing them, driving prices ever higher.
Conservatives have that playbook, and it's called Room To Grow. From employment policies to get Americans working again, to tax reforms that strengthen the economy and lighten the burdens families bear, to health-care reform that lowers costs and improves access and quality, to higher-education reform to make college and career training more effective and affordable, and more — Room To Grow gives Americans a fresh start, a new way forward "with special emphasis on what can be done to assist and empower working families—those who are, and those who want to be, in the middle class," as Peter Wehner writes.
These workable, principled conservative reforms could help usher in an era of unprecedented American prosperity and opportunity — but getting there demands that our leaders understand the urgent struggles working families face every day, and accept that Washington's current offerings aren't equal to the moment.