Getting to the Middle: Policy Prescriptions for Maine’s Working Families

Augusta —  As Washington struggles to bail out Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion, oil prices have begun another climb and the American dollar continues to lose value.  Across Maine working families are asking themselves how they will get through the winter, pay their mortgages and keep their jobs.  Current events in the financial industry are dire but for most low- and moderate-income working families, hopes for a prosperous financial future have been anything but rosy for many years. Today, the Maine Center for Economic Policy releases a new report, Getting to the Middle: Policy prescriptions for Maine’s working families. In this report, MECEP’s fiscal policy analyst, Kurt Wise, looks at how low-income working families in Maine are faring and the specific public policies that can improve their economic prospects. Taken as a whole – or even piecemeal – the recommendations made in this report can help build a more resilient and prosperous state economy and a stronger middle class in Maine.
“Public policies matter enormously,” says Wise, “both for the long term stability and performance of our economy, and for the well-being of working families. Government policies adopted over the last thirty years at the state and national level have undermined the stability of the middle-class and have diminished the opportunities available to hard-working American families striving to move up on the financial ladder.” If this trend is not corrected, the report argues, those Maine families who have struggled to stay afloat through the wage stagnation of the last seven years will face still greater challenges in the years ahead, and Maine’s economy will suffer accordingly.
The families under consideration in this report live on incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and include one in every four working households in Maine.
These 40,000 Maine families will feel the impacts of current events more immediately than will other Mainers.  Wise underscores, however, that “it is not only low-income families who will suffer. Even though these families are far more vulnerable to a sharp downturn in the economy, the economic pain felt at the lower end of the income distribution will ripple out into the broader state economy, affecting everyone.” As consumers, mortgage holders and rent payers – as well as a large part of the labor force from which Maine businesses will draw their workers – the skills and security of these families have significant implications for Maine’s overall economy.
This new report offers descriptive data on Maine’s low-income working families, discusses the important role government has played in our recent past, and offers specific policy prescriptions that will help us return to the vibrant, broadly shared prosperity Americans enjoyed in the three decades following WWII.
To read the report:  Getting to the Middle: Policy prescriptions for Maine’s working families

To read the  summary of policy recommendations:  Executive Summary

Getting to the Middle is part of a national, multi-state effort called the Working Poor Families Project.