For 50 years the strength of the American middle class has been the foundation of our society, allowing us to achieve social and economic progress possible at no other time and nowhere else in the world. The growth of the middle class has been accompanied by the great forward leaps we have taken – massive public infrastructure projects, desegregation of our schools, millions of students in college, rockets to the moon, quality affordable healthcare for all, and the United States’ leadership in a global high tech 21st century economy.
To be a middle class family, to be a part of that growth, creation, and change – this is the American dream.
I have had the pleasure of watching many employees in our Falls Church family business realize that dream over the past four decades. Through hard work, skill, and a decent income, these families have been able to save for their first home, put money away for retirement, and send their kids to college.
But the working families of our country have struggled in recent years. The Great Recession, slower economic growth, a mismatch between productivity gains and wage increases, disruptive technologies, globalization, and more have given us enduring wage stagnation. Middle class families are forced to stretch their dollars further than ever to pay for clothes, food, gas, and housing.
We can do better, and I am determined to work with my friends in Congress, on both sides of the political aisle, to promote laws and a budget that renews a competitive, inclusive economy for us all.
For me, the single unifying idea is innovation. We can and must promote a culture of innovation, and economic and educational structures where innovation is recognized and rewarded. Congress can make a difference.
My own Science Prize Competition Act passed the House with bipartisan support to incentivize innovative research and development in federal prize competitions. One hundred years ago, the Orteig Prize spurred Charles Lindbergh’s first transatlantic flight. My hope is that with the expansion of such prizes through this Act, new industries may develop to create jobs, enhance lives and bolster our economy.
Congress will break for August recess this week, not because we have finished our job, but because that is simply what we do every year. We need to be better than this.
Let’s at least do these: pass a new highway and infrastructure bill which will put thousands of Americans to work and use the best new technologies in all that we build; reauthorize the Export-Import Bank to help American businesses and workers compete in a global economy; reform our immigration laws to build the workforce we need; make community college free for most Americans; guarantee equal pay for equal work, and create true paid family and medical leave; raise the minimum wage to $20 by 2020; and negotiate a strong trade treaty with our Pacific partners, which opens up these markets to U.S. exports and brings much needed new direct investment into our homeland.
Relentless, optimistic, creative, and bold – together, we can provide the leadership to achieve sustained higher economic growth, and renew the strength of our middle class and create new pathways to get there.