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Blog: A Grand Bargain for the Middle Class


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I just got through reading President Obama's speech in Chattanooga about creating jobs and ensuring a better bargain for the middle class. By proposing that corporations pay their fair share of taxes, the president is freeing up resources to invest in job-creating initiatives while also working to strengthen our skills programs and calling for fair pay for American workers.

The president talked yesterday about rebuilding our infrastructure, investing in manufacturing innovation, creating incentives for green energy and increasing U.S. exports. But he also knows that a growing economy powered by a rising middle class is only possible when we give people the skills and training they need to succeed in 21st-century jobs.

So he wants to strengthen our community colleges, linking them more directly to the private sector and creating a demand-driven approach to workforce development. The president also went out of his way in his speech to highlight the 4 million long-term unemployed Americans, challenging CEOs to help solve this problem that is a drag on our economy.

And the president emphasized once again that work has to pay. In his words: "And because no one who works full-time in America should have to live in poverty, I will keep making the case that we need to raise a minimum wage that in real terms is lower than it was when Ronald Reagan took office. That means more money in consumers' pockets and more business for companies like Amazon."

My No. 1 priority as secretary of labor is to create more opportunity for people willing to work hard and take responsibility, and that's exactly what the president had in mind. The president hasn't taken his eye off the ball of long-term deficit reduction. But for all the talk in Washington about grand bargain on taxes and spending, isn't it about time we had a "grand bargain" for middle-class job creation?

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