CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginians need comprehensive and proven policies that will build shared prosperity for everyone in America who works hard and plays by the rules.
It can't be a nip here or a tuck there. We need policies with the scale and boldness to turn around our economy, so it isn't run by and for the richest Americans any more.
Right now, many West Virginians are suffering. More people are working than four years ago, but recent layoffs have only reinforced that our economy is still fragile. We lost over 1,300 coal jobs in the second quarter. Seven hundred workers with Constellium LLC in Ravenswood are facing cuts to their health care -- and these are only a fraction of those West Virginians who have seen their benefits evaporate even in the midst of an economic recovery.
Good people can disagree, but America has not had honest and meaningful debate for a long time. Here are some ideas to consider.
There's a blueprint to work from. It's called "Prosperity Economics: Building an Economy for All" and was written by two professors from Yale University, Jacob Hacker and Nathaniel Lowentheil. The core idea that underpins each of the policy recommendations is that broadly shared prosperity produces better long-term economic strength than inequality.
"Prosperity Economics" contrasts sharply to the austerity urged by leading Republicans for the past 30 years and endorsed wholeheartedly by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Austerity is a failure. It has lowered wages and degraded the wealth of our families.
Decades of government cutbacks have decimated the agencies that protect us. Oil spills and other environmental catastrophes are too common and too destructive. Too many people are being hurt and injured on the job. Food safety has suffered. And austerity endangers core American programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Why have we followed this path? It's not a noble mission, we can promise you that. We did it to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and to allow Wall Street and corporate CEOs to enrich themselves at our expense.
Our vision is different. It offers a solid program for a bright future. We can rebuild a healthy economy by reconnecting wages to productivity. The key and best way to do that is by protecting the right of working people to organize and bargain collectively through a union on the job.