Richard Kirsch

Richard Kirsch is a former Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow and the author of Fighting for Our Health: The Epic Battle to Make Health Care a Right in the United States.

The surge of states and cities enacting $15 minimum wages masks the ongoing debate within the Democratic Party about their economic impact. In the face of Republicans saying that raising the wage kills jobs, Democrats like New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo are forcefully making the opposite case: raising the minimum wage promotes job creation and

In his last State of the Union address, referring to the need for a higher minimum wage, paid leave, and equal pay for equal work, President Obama declared, “I won’t rest until they get done.” It’s time he used the purchasing power of the federal government to show he means it. As Americans continue to

The presidential primaries have revealed the public thirst for big, bold ideas to address stagnant wages and hopes, whether it’s Bernie Sanders’s audacious policy agenda or Trump’s huge promises. For a detailed vision of what the federal government could do to actually address the big challenges we face, one need look no further than the

After Hillary Clinton delivered her Super Tuesday victory speech, Van Jones said on CNN that his Twitter feed was full of people saying that she had stolen Bernie Sanders’s message. But that was only half-true. While Clinton is incorporating more of Sanders’s progressive populism, her campaign narrative is in the best tradition of American liberalism.

Hillary Clinton made a 180-degree turn in the focus of her message between New Hampshire and Nevada. She switched from “I” to “we.” In New Hampshire it was all about her, “a progressive who likes to get things done.” In Nevada it was about “each of us working together.” There’s been an ocean of punditry

The Democratic presidential debates have brought welcome attention to the question of how we can build on the Affordable Care Act to realize the goal of quality, affordable health care for all. It’s a refreshing and timely break from the Republicans’ tired pledges to repeal Obamacare, a radical right stance that is supported by every

“Watch what we do, not what we say” was the infamous comment by Richard Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell. There’s no better example today than the red-carpet reception Pennsylvania Republicans are giving Donald Trump at the Plaza Hotel in New York tomorrow. While the other Republican candidates for president are now saying that Trump has

For decades now, Republicans have been telling people that businesses are the job creators and that regulating or taxing businesses will mean fewer jobs—which is why so many Americans believe them. Rarely has a Democrat challenged the underlying assertion that prosperity comes from businesses. But on Saturday, we saw two of the Democratic candidates for

The Blueprint to Empower Workers for Shared Prosperity, a report by Roosevelt Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch, Roosevelt Fellow Dorian Warren, and Project Manager Andy Shen, is the culmination of a two-year process that brought together labor unions, academics, leading thinkers from worker organizing centers, community and policy groups, and attorneys to identify major areas in which

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If Social Security, the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and the 40-hour workweek laid the foundation for the middle class in the 20th century, what would be the equivalent for the 21st century? The odd couple of a billionaire entrepreneur and a labor leader have come up with what could be a breakthrough proposal for rebuilding

Earlier this month, the New York City Council enacted basic protections for workers at car washes, one group of exploited, largely immigrant workers. Next up on the City Council’s to-do list should be reversing a court decision that robbed taxi drivers, another group of mostly immigrant workers, of health and disability benefits. New York City’s

In her campaign launch speech on Roosevelt Island, Hillary Clinton talked about her fight for an “economy that works for everyday Americans, not just those at the top.” That rallying cry is becoming the core economic message of more and more Democrats. In their announcement speeches, Bernie Sanders called for “an economy that works for

It would be a huge mistake for Democrats to dismiss the newfound economic populism of Republican presidential candidates as obviously laughable given Republicans’ deep alliance with corporate America. Republicans are aiming to pull off a populist jiu jitsu, using anger at corporate influence over government to justify even more dismantling of government. It could work.

Following the most recent work stoppage by port truck drivers in southern California, Los Angeles Mayer Eric Garcetti announced the formation of a new trucking company, which will be a model for good pay and protecting the environment. The announcement takes the port drivers’ ongoing protest of low-wages and exploitative working conditions to a new

Want to know the best way to talk about raising wages and economy-boosting jobs? Here are resources for people on the most effective narrative and messages to support advocacy for raising wages and improving job quality.   ON THE PAGE Raising Wages and Economy Boosting Jobs: Lessons from Public Opinion Research How to Talk About Raising

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Obamacare’s Nine Lives

If Obamacare survives yesterday’s Supreme Court challenge, it will really be the cat with nine lives. The death of what became the Affordable Care Act has been predicted regularly ever since President Obama’s election in 2008. Right after Obama’s election, I got a wave of calls from reporters, each highly skeptical that the President-elect would

Americans are looking for politicians who ask the wealthy to take responsibility for their fair share of our society. According to former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers – who is emerging as a key economic advisor to Hillary Clinton – the big political challenge in addressing economic inequality is not to embrace “a politics of envy.”

The more-fair “middle-class economics” described in the State of the Union are also the right policies to help the economy grow. In coining the new term “middle-class economics” and linking it to raising wages and taxing the rich and Wall Street to put money in the pockets of working families, President Obama used his State

By forcing Republicans to admit their support for Wall Street over working families, Van Hollen’s proposal opens the economic debate the Democrats need. Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s (D-MD) proposal to tax Wall Street speculators and CEO millionaires to put money in the pockets of working families and the middle class, the engines of our economy,

A populist message won’t be enough to save the Democratic Party if its leaders continue to serve Wall Street. Two weeks before New York Senator Charles Schumer once again delivered for Wall Street with the omnibus budget deal, he gave a major speech in which he sounded like a progressive champion. Schumer offered a stirring

Democrats had the leverage to nix a deal that opens the door to more Wall Street bailouts, but they caved in to Republican blackmail. Progressives lost the battle over the budget last night because President Obama and a minority of Democrats took the side of Wall Street. It is the first of many losses we

The policies that will deliver economic growth also center fairness, and that’s what Democrats need to emphasize to keep the presidency in 2016. The familiar debate within the Democratic Party – move left or right – is on. In a memo to a “limited number of Democratic leaders,” Third Way, the leading organization for corporate

Democrats can connect with voters by telling a story about how they’ll make the economy work for all of us. The big post-election consensus is that Democrats believe, as The New York Times put it, they were missing “a broad economic message to enthuse supporters and convert some independents.” So what would that missing narrative

It’s hard for workers to trust the President’s support for policies that help them when the administration sides with Amazon at the Supreme Court. Amazon’s business model is based on quick easy buying and low prices. One way it does that is to force its warehouse workers to wait a long time to leave work,

Port truck drivers aren’t indepedent contractors: they’re employees of companies that pay them too little for long hours, with no benefits or worker protections. It’s a David and Goliath story, only in this case there are 120 Davids taking on a hidden Goliath of an industry that every day touches everyone who is reading this

The Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn will make it harder for home care and child care workers to organize for better pay and higher quality jobs. A huge sigh of relief mixed with curses. That’s my reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision today to block home care workers in Illinois from being required

Executive compensation is soaring while workers and taxpayers feel the squeeze. A new Roosevelt Institute white paper explains why. Americans hate the fact that CEOs of big corporations keep raking in millions while the incomes of most American households are sinking. Now a new Roosevelt Institute white paper by University of Massachusetts economist William Lazonick

If the goal is to achieve real progressive change that improves lives, then New York Governor Cuomo’s deal with the Working Families Party is on the right track. It would be a mistake to think that the New York Working Families Party’s endorsement of a Wall Street, austerity Democrat – Andrew Cuomo – is a

Opponents of a higher minimum wage claim it would have a negative impact on the economy and workers. The numbers tell a different story. This week, a minority of United States senators blocked a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from coming to a vote, overruling the 54 senators who

The U.S. Postal Service is making changes that will add low wage jobs to our economy, rather than the middle-class jobs it’s known for that we really need. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) has just come out with its latest report on the wage-levels of jobs added as the nation has emerged from the

This is the sixth and last in a series of posts summarizing a new Roosevelt Institute report by Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch, entitled “The Future of Work in America: Policies to Empower American Workers to Ensure Prosperity for All.” The report provides a short history of how the rise and decline of unions and then

With wealth concentrating in the hands of the few, and the Supreme Court handing even greater political power to those with big money, what can be done to protect democracy? The Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision, making it even easier for the rich to buy political power, highlights the big question raised by Thomas Piketty’s new

This is the fifth in a series of posts summarizing a new Roosevelt Institute paper report by Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch, entitled the “The Future of Work in America: Policies to Empower American Workers for and Ensure Prosperity for All.” The paper report provides a short history of how the rise and decline of unions

This is the fourth in a series of posts summarizing a new Roosevelt Institute paper report by Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch, entitled “The Future of Work in America: Policies to Empower American Workers and Ensure Prosperity for All.” The report provides a short history of how the rise and decline of unions and then explores

With the first open enrollment period ending today, consider some successes, outrages, and bug fixes for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch will debate implementation issues and the future of the ACA with the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Moffit tonight at New York University. For more information, click here. The Good:

Roosevelt Institute President and CEO Felicia Wong spoke yesterday at the Income Inequality Symposium in Seattle, where she gave the closing remarks, calling on our memories of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal to urge Seattle into action on raising the minimum wage. Her prepared remarks are below. Thank you so much, Mayor

This is the third in a series of posts summarizing a new Roosevelt Institute report by Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch, entitled “The Future of Work in America: Policies to Empower American Workers and Ensure Prosperity for All.” The report provides a short history of how the rise and decline of unions and then explores reforms

This is the second in a series of posts summarizing a new Roosevelt Institute report by Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch, entitled “The Future of Work in America: Policies to Empower American Workers and Ensure Prosperity for All”. The report provides a short history of how the rise and decline of unions and then explores reforms

This is the first in a series of posts summarizing a new Roosevelt Institute report by Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch, entitled “The Future of Work in America: Policies to Empower American Workers and Ensure Prosperity for All.” The report provides a short history of how the rise and decline of unions and then explores reforms

Download the report (PDF) by Richard Kirsch The Future of Work is bringing together thought and action leaders from multiple fields to re-imagine a 21st century social contract that expands workers’ rights and increases the number of living wage jobs. The Future of Work is focusing on three areas: promoting new and innovative strategies for

The Future of Work in America

The Future of Work is bringing together thought and action leaders from multiple fields to reimagine a 21st century social contract that expands workers’ rights and increases the number of living wage jobs. The Future of Work is focusing on three areas: promoting new and innovative strategies for worker organizing and representation; raising the floor

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Democrats may have lost the special election for Florida’s 13th congressional district, but the polling shows a path to success in 2014 with the Affordable Care Act. As pundits debate the impact of Obamacare on the special Congressional election held in Florida on March 11, a headline from a new Bloomberg national poll actually does

Requiring employers to offer insurance to all employees or pay an additional payroll tax would eliminate the problems with the employer mandate, and start a shift toward broad tax-based coverage. In the last month, two more misleading headlines – one on lost jobs and the other on premiums for small businesses – have further roiled

When a company is not fighting against a union, why do that union’s efforts fail – and what does that say about the U.S. model for labor? Current management theory recognizes that businesses do better when employees are involved in decision-making. But that trend ran smack into the paternalistic view that workers are replaceable parts

Both the 2014 State of the Union and the Republican response emphasized the need for an opportunity society, but only the president called for collective action. Midway through listening to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ Republican response to the State of the Union address last week, a colleague of mine e-mailed, “they got & used the

Now that Republicans have put out an alternative to the Affordable Care Act, Democrats should emphasize what a repeal would really mean for Americans’ health. Boy, can Democrats have fun with the new Republican alternative to Obamacare. It puts the health insurance companies back in charge and raises costs for almost all Americans. In particular,

A dispute over whether home care workers in Illinois can be required to pay union dues is part of a much larger strategy to undermine the progressive power base. You have to hand it to the right wing: it understands the importance of institutional power more than much of the liberal establishment. It took down

The rise of a new progressive organizing is cause to believe that economic reform and a shift toward broadly shared prosperity are within reach. Thomas Edsall, who now is capping off his long career writing insightfully about the relationship between economics and public opinion as a blogger for The New York Times, concluded a piece

The campaign that won passage of health care reform is closing up shop, but its grassroots organizing efforts will stand as a model of success for progressives. Health Care for America Now (HCAN), the grassroots campaign that powered passage of the Affordable Care Act, is about to close its doors, as planned when the campaign

When President Obama frames the story of the American dream as one that is harmed by economic inequality, progressives should cheer – and they should also prepare to sharpen that story and tie it to action. Barak Obama captured the national imagination on the strength of his ability to tell his own story as part

By rejecting a contract that amounted to corporate extortion, the Machinists Local 751 at Boeing have taken a stand for middle-class workers all over the country. In a remarkable act of courage and solidarity with the next generation, last week Boeing workers in Seattle soundly rejected corporate extortion, by voting down a contract which traded

By allowing people to keep their current plans for another year, even if those plans are not compliant with the Affordable Care Act, the President has retained a focus on the most important thing: insuring more Americans. President Obama’s move today to allow people to keep their current insurance plans for a year, as long

It’s natural for negative stories about the Affordable Care Act to have the biggest impact, but media bias is obscuring the facts. More than any other public policy issue, health care is very personal. So it is not surprising that personal stories are a central battleground for the public perception of the Affordable Care Act.

President Obama used a slight exaggeration to counteract Republican fear-mongering and provide more and better health coverage to all Americans. There are good reasons why President Obama’s leading message on health care during the 2008 campaign, often repeated since, was “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.” That message was created to

Going into the post-shutdown budget discussions, progressives should take the offensive with proposals that would fix problems with Social Security and Medicare without any cuts. Republicans may not have succeeded in defunding the nations’ newest social insurance program, ObamaCare, but they now are aiming at the foundational programs, Social Security and Medicare. And this time,

On Wednesday, October 16, the Roosevelt Institute will present the 2013 Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards, honoring individuals and organizations whose work exemplifies FDR’s vision of democracy. Click here to RSVP for the free public ceremony.

I was one of the lucky ones: I was invited to a preview screening of Inequality for All a few months ago. Since then, I’ve been telling everyone I know that they needed to see this documentary about economic inequality when it hit theaters, which it finally did this month.

The new film starring Robert Reich delivers a powerful message about what’s wrong with the economy, though it may leave viewers wondering what they can do about it. With the release of the documentary Inequality for All today, the core progressive story about what is wrong with the economy is now on the silver screen.

Progressives must get out in front of the battle to preserve the biggest expansion of the social safety net in decades. It’s been 100 years since ideological conservatives joined with doctors and insurance companies to kill the first movement in the United States for what was then called “compulsory health care.” Now, on the eve

New technology is keeping more and more workers stuck in low-wage jobs, and it’s society’s responsibility to make sure those jobs still have dignity and fair wages. With robots taking over factories and warehouses, toll collectors and cashiers increasingly being replaced by automation and even legal researchers being replaced by computers, the age-old question of

The president is promoting a business model that puts everything we want just a click away — except for good jobs with decent wages. On Tuesday, President Obama gave a great speech on why good jobs are the foundation for his middle-out economic strategy… from a huge Amazon warehouse where the workers do not have

The president’s big economic address had some good lines, but he should back them up with real action through executive orders. I am of course glad to see President Obama focus the country on what he correctly identifies as the most pressing national problem, the crushing of the middle class. The solution he laid out

Workers won’t be denied coverage because of the reporting delay, but they may not want to give up the insurance they get through the exchanges come 2015. In my post last week, after the announcement that the employer mandate would not be enforced for a year, I wrote that it was vital that the Obama

The White House’s decision shows sympathy for big employers, but it’s not clear whether employees will have to shoulder the cost. The surprise announcement from the Obama administration that it will delay for one year penalizing employers that do not offer health coverage to their workers is the latest capitulation by the White House to

New health insurance marketplaces will make affordable care accessible to millions, but low-wage employees of big businesses may be left out. One of the biggest issues that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is meant to tackle is the lack of health coverage among low-wage workers. While there is good news for many low-wage workers in

Eliminating taxes in college communities won’t improve the economy, but it will undermine our public institutions. The decade-long conservative campaign for lower taxes and limited government has hit a wall of public outrage over the unfairness of the American tax system. But while lower taxes for the wealthy and corporations may not be popular, there

On June 4th, the Roosevelt Institute will bring together leading thinkers, activists, and policymakers for A Bold Approach to the Jobs Emergency: Setting the Political Agenda for 2014 and 2016, a daylong conference in Washington, D.C. that will focus on America’s desperate need for more and better jobs. Today, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch,

We can create the political will to tackle the jobs crisis by advancing a progressive economic narrative. The question we must ask today, as we remember the Works Progress Administration is: why isn’t there the political will to take dramatic steps to address today’s jobs emergency? Let’s start with the obvious; there was a far

ObamaCare has a better chance at success if it’s taken out of the hands of Republican governors who want to see it fail. The headlines – “Many States Say ‘No’ to Health Insurance Exchanges,” to take one example – make it seem like bad news. But it’s not. It is good news that half the

President Obama has begun telling the right story about the economy. Now we need to make sure that story spreads. Two years ago, frustrated by a conservative resurgence in the 2010 election, a group of progressive activists, economists, communicators, and pollsters came together to write a compelling story about our view of the economy (as

Cuomo’s minimum wage proposal is better for working families, but the debate needs to be broader. Two potential candidates for president in 2016, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, have taken opposing positions on raising the minimum wage in their states. The debate between the two governors draws a sharp

President Obama’s second inaugural moved past a vague message of compromise and charted a progressive course toward the future. Four years ago, I stood in the cold listening to President Obama’s first inaugural address. I remember it leaving me cold. This year, in the warmth of my den, the president’s clear projection of progressive values

President Obama must remember the message of election night and back away from cutting Social Security benefits. That didn’t last nearly as long as I had hoped. I put on my Obama baseball cap – the one I picked up from a street vendor walking to the inauguration four years ago – a few weeks

As part of our series “A Rooseveltian Second Term Agenda,” important steps that can get us back to a truly representative form of government. This election was ample reminder of the myriad ways we urgently need to fix our democracy. As Justice Brandeis wrote a century ago, “We can either have democracy in this country

As part of our series “A Rooseveltian Second Term Agenda,” a look at the four biggest budget issues that will be debated in the next four months. The very next day after the election, congressional leaders held dueling press conferences in Washington to start the stampede to the fiscal cliff. But December 31st is not

A New Era in Health Care Begins

Despite the bill’s flaws, its passage — and Obama’s reelection — ensure a whole new ball game. Four years ago, my wife and I planted an oak tree on Election Day – our Obama Oak – at the front of our house. The remarkable thing about the tree is how long it holds on to its leaves.

Romney touts the expansion of health coverage in Massachusetts as a great achievement, but he’d deny that same guarantee to millions of Americans. As Romney aimed to prove that he cared about the 100 percent in last night’s debate, part of the stream of accomplishments he listed in his final answer was his audacious claim

Romney keeps shifting his policy positions, but he never loses sight of his self-interest. There’s a lot of talk these days about the way Mitt Romney is once again shifting his political principles. He’s Etch-a-Sketched himself from the hard-right-winger in the primaries into a reassuring centrist in the debate last week. But for me, Mitt

How to Make Work Pay Again

The latest Census data prove that we need to start rebuilding the American middle class, and a new report shows how it can be done. Yesterday the U.S. Census Bureau reported that family income in the U.S. dropped to its lowest level in 16 years. The key thing in this news is that the drop is

Mitt Romney wants voters to blame Barack Obama for mishandling the crisis, but he’d also like you to forget who caused it. In his acceptance speech, Mitt Romney tried hard to communicate how much he empathizes with the economic squeeze on middle-class families. Last Thursday in Tampa, he talked about a symbolic worker who lost

Education is certainly important, but if it doesn’t go hand-in-hand with the creation of good jobs, we’ll have an economy built on quicksand. We all know that the key to our economic future is a more educated workforce, right? Here, for example, are the “Guiding Principles” of President Obama’s education policies: “Providing a high-quality education

The Affordable Care Act survived the Supreme Court, but its true fate — and the fate of the millions it will insure — will be decided in November. That was a shout of joy followed by an enormous sigh of relief you just heard. And a tear you can’t see in my eye. Today the

Congress shouldn’t make working- and middle-class families pay for the repeal of a sales tax on one of America’s most profitable industries. Last week the House voted to increase health care costs on middle-class families in order to protect one of the most profitable industries in the country. And almost nobody noticed. More than three

Voters won’t have to worry about losing their health insurance when they lose their jobs if Barack Obama is still president in 2014. Massachusetts is the only state in the country where you don’t have to worry about losing your health insurance if you lose your job, and it will remain that way if Mitt

Fights for economic and environmental justice must also incorporate the fight against big money’s hold on our political system. Most people remember the famous sign in the Clinton campaign war room in 1992 as “It’s the economy stupid!” But what is often forgotten is the second phrase in the admonition to Clinton campaigners to keep

As part of the How We Value Government series, a simple narrative with clear heroes and villains that progressives too often fail to tell. In his 2003 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush vowed to protect Medicare two sentences after he trashed “nationalized health care.” The fact that Medicare is our national

Even if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act, it won’t change the fact that health care is a public good that must be provided to all Americans. It is fitting testament to the fundamental problem with our health care system that the key legal question the Supreme Court is considering today is

Romney’s flip-flop on raising the minimum wage betrays what Republicans really mean when they talk about small government. Last month I wrote about how economic issues like the minimum wage were twisting Republican candidates into pretzels as they tried to make it look like they cared about the economic squeeze on American families while toeing

Republican candidates are torn between supporting free market purists and the public’s desire for a living wage. When it comes to the economy, the GOP has a real problem that pollsters and message-massagers can’t wave away. After three decades of the rich getting richer and the middle class being crushed and closed, Americans are very

It doesn’t matter what the president’s motives are for proposing better policies. What’s important is that progressives hold him to it. A time-honored but largely useless exercise is trying to divine whether the actions of politicians are motivated by their core beliefs or by “politics.” For most successful politicians, the line between the two is

If the ability for independent monitors to impose fines for failing to follow the law is eviscerated, we’ll be back where we started — or worse. The country’s banks agreed to change their behavior as part of the robo-mortgage settlement announced earlier this week. The announcement, however, leaves open a central question: Does the settlement

It’s a Crime to Deny Our Care

In an excerpt from his new book, Fighting for Our Health, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch notes that like Occupy Wall Street, the health care reform movement looked beyond politicians and targeted the corporate interests that were opposing progress. When Occupy Wall Street burst onto the scene, a consistent critique was that the movement

In an excerpt from his new book, Fighting for Our Health, Roosevelt Institute Senior Fellow Richard Kirsch explains how supporters of health care reform turned the Tea Party’s own town hall tactics against them. With Mitt Romney’s hold on the Republican nomination looking secure, the Tea Party will soon have to face the reality that

Louis Brandeis’s vision of what it takes to create an engaged citizenry went far beyond voting rights, touching on leisure, regulation, and the welfare state. During the Independence Day celebrations of 1915, Louis Brandeis was invited to give the prestigious Fourth of July Oration at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. Brandeis was already a towering figure in

President Obama’s proposed Medicaid cuts won’t address the source of rising costs, but they would be a major step backward for public health care. While the public debate about the Republican budget focused on the sharp reactions against Paul Ryan’s Medicare privatization scheme, the other big “M” in health care, Medicaid, hasn’t received the attention

Republican plans that shift costs to consumers completely misunderstand the United States’ health care system. Yesterday, Speaker Boehner issued what Robert Bob Borosage of Campaign for America’s Future correctly labeled extortion: “Give us trillions in cuts in Medicare and Medicaid or we blow up the economy.” Boehner’s threat to tie the lifting of the debt

It’s time for progressives to take the offensive on the deficit. Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a member of the President’s deficit reduction commission, put out a straight-forward plan yesterday that demonstrates what you can do if you believe that we need a strong middle class to build a strong economy. Unlike the recommendations of the