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Eye On Olympia

Stuff we’re reading…

From Joshua Green's profile in The Atlantic of New York Sen. Chuck Schumer:

He attributes his success these past four years to a small but critical insight into the nature of the American middle class: namely, that it is more affluent and doesn’t want the same things from government as does the “middle class” as normally conceived by politicians, policy makers, and academics. Schumer sees this group as the key to the electoral balance of power, and believes he has figured out how to reach it.

Working-class families, Schumer argues, can earn significantly above the median household income of $48,000 and still be facing middle-class struggles.

This has important policy implications, because most of these households don’t qualify for the government programs Democrats are likeliest to bring up. “People who make $80,000 a year expect to be solidly middle class,” Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor whose studies of the middle class have strongly influenced Schumer, told me. “They’re making more than their parents did, but they also work harder and they’re much less secure—laying out a king’s ransom to buy a house where they feel they need to live for their kids to get a good education. That’s a wholly different set of issues than living on the margin of poverty.” These are the people Schumer says Democrats need to help. “Too often, the focus is on the top 10 percent, who don’t need it, or the bottom 10 percent,” Schumer says. “The broad middle is forgotten.”


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