“third way’s” new report explodes myths

Third Way, a Washington, D.C.-based strategy center that seeks to reframe a variety of issues of concern to Democrats, recently issued “New Rules Economy: A Policy Framework for the 21st Century.” The report debunks a myriad of conventional wisdoms regarding America’s middle class, citing hard data showing that the “glass is half full” and not “half empty” as many doom-and-gloom Democrats like to say.

With this report, Third Way begins to reframe the relationship between the Democratic Party, middle class and the larger economy in which we all live, moving policy away from simple-minded notions where all corporations are bad, and markets and free trade are evil.

The report begins by showing rising middle class incomes, particularly for prime-working age households (25 to 59 years). In doing so, Third Way removes one important card on which neo-populist’s political house of cards is stacked: middle class stagnation. Their opposition to NAFTA and other free trade accords, Wal-Mart, and lower corporate taxes is, at its core, based on perceived causal relationships between all that and a world in which “the poor are getting poorer” and the “middle class is stagnating and swimming in debt.”

But what if you demonstrate that the middle class is not stagnating, as Third Way does? What if you show a relationship between middle class jobs and globalization? What if you show that the bulk of the debt middle class are swimming in is mortage debt, which, as Third Way writes, is not a “negative event”?

Thus, Third Way shows that the world in which the middle class lives and thrives is more complex than caricatures painted by neo-populists. Coming right as the new presidential election season is getting underway, hopefully this report will spark conversations and policy-making that is as robust as the reality in which we all live.

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