The idea of the American dream is that if you work hard and do your part, you can get ahead. Even if you are born poor or immigrate to this country with nothing but the clothes on your back, if you work hard, you and your children should be able to succeed.
But these days, too many people who work hard and do their part struggle to make ends meet. The Massachusetts economy is booming, but the cost of living is high and many have been left behind. In one of the wealthiest states in the richest country in the history of the world, no one who works full time should struggle to afford basic necessities.
Rising inequality is one of the greatest public policy challenges of our time. As Senior Advisor for Jobs & Competitiveness in President Obama’s White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, I worked with tremendously talented colleagues throughout the government to advance policies that would help build an economy that works for everyone, not just the very rich.
In the era of Trump, much of the progress we made over the past eight years is now vulnerable.
But there are some concrete things we can do here in Massachusetts to help working people get ahead and build an economy that works for all.
Here are six ideas we should start with:
First, it’s time to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Too many people who work full time struggle to make ends meet. It’s time to raise the minimum wage so that people who work hard can make a living wage and provide for themselves and their families.
Second, it’s time for paid family leave. Workers should not be forced to choose between work and their own health needs or the well-being of their children and other family members.
Third, we need to pass the Millionaire’s Tax to raise the revenue we need to invest in world-class public schools, affordable public higher education, and a transportation system that allows people to get to school or work.
Fourth, we need ensure that everyone has access to affordable, high quality health care. We need to fight against Republican efforts to push tens of millions off of health insurance, and move towards truly universal health care, ideally through a single payer/Medicare-for-all system.
Fifth, we need to ensure equal pay for equal work. It is shameful that even right out of college women make less than men, even accounting for education and type of work. Recent legislation requiring equal pay for comparable work is a big step forward, but we need to ensure that its promise translates into actual results.
Sixth, we need to invest in our thriving innovation economy. Massachusetts has some of the best universities and health care institutions in the world. We are at the cutting edge of science and engineering research, and we have some of most innovative technology and biotech companies in the world. We need to continue to invest in the institutions and people that make Massachusetts dynamic and unique, and must also ensure that these investments are centered on the idea that everyone, no matter where they come from or what they earn, stands to benefit from continued economic growth.
Together, we can make sure that the economy of Massachusetts works for all, and remains prosperous for a long time to come.
Quentin Palfrey is a progressive Democrat running for Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor. You can learn more about his campaign and get involved at www.quentinpalfrey.com, by visiting his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/qpalfrey, or by following him on Twitter at @qpalfrey