With so many obstacles to rebuilding the middle class, where should Washington start? One easy answer: "President Obama could bring some relief and set a good example. He has the power with his presidential pen to require a minimum-wage increase for employees of businesses, including fast-food vendors, that have contracts with the federal government. It wouldn't relieve all low-wage workers, but it would be a powerful place to start."
Another obstacle to rebuilding the middle class: Big corporations are turning a blind eye to labor violations at their franchises. "Big corporations like McDonald's and 7-Eleven exert a lot of control over their franchise owners when it comes to things like branding and the products they sell. When it comes to labor standards, though, it's almost like corporate management doesn't care at all, as two recent cases remind us." If we want a strong middle class, one of the most critical steps is ensuring workers have the right to form a union if they so desire.
We need to change the narrative and attitude in Washington that the working class is just lazy, and that the only people who matter are wealthy corporate donors. The working class is more productive than ever, but the gains from this productivity are going to the wealthiest among us. It's time Washington gets the message that when working-class Americans do better, everyone does better. We need to raise our voices so that Washington finally gets the message.