Isabel Sawhill is a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institute and was recently named a Distinguished Fellow by the American Economic Association. She is convinced that over the years, middle- and working-class men and women, who represent 38 percent of the working-age population, have been ignored. This has happened during a time when these "forgotten Americans" have been struggling with a lack of jobs, stagnant earnings, and the fast-paced changes in trade and technology.
As a result of these challenges brought on by economic inequality, America is more divided than ever, and trust in government is lacking. To address this shameful situation, Sawhill presents various scenarios about "returning to a system in which work is rewarded over welfare, hand-ups over handouts, wages over windfall profits. It is about improving the lives of those who are neither rich nor poor but somewhere in the middle. And it is about policies linked to mainstream values such as family, education, and work."
With clarity and political wisdom, the author presents four approaches to assisting those who have been left behind the disruptions and inequalities of today's economy. We were glad to see Sawhill honestly admit that the solutions offered by Republicans (growth from those on the right) and Democrats (redistribution from those on the left) have limitations and will not work without "finding a common ground and an agenda that most of the public can get behind." We were impressed by the table outlining the key proposals to help the forgotten Americans.