Getting America Back on Track


The American economy is not working. This is not news for millions of U.S. families who have increasingly strained under a system that brings most of its gains to the nation’s top earners. But finding a way to counter it has been much more challenging.

As the Teamsters have stated repeatedly, there needs to be a commitment to boost and expand America’s middle class, which is the lifeblood of our country. But that alone will not fuel a national renaissance that will raise up a majority of people. There needs to be a buy-in from the business community that puts long-term economic health before short-term profits.

The Roosevelt Institute, of which I am a board member, recently released a detailed blueprint called “Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy” authored by its renowned chief economist Joseph Stiglitz in an effort to tame income inequality. To put this nation back on track, the document makes clear that the U.S. must rethink the economic assumptions it’s made during the past 35 years.

Given the economy’s size and complexity, our problems cannot be solved by tinkering around the edges. Instead, a total revamp is necessary, one that both—as the report says—grows the middle class while reining in the runaway excess of the business class.

The paper says that if this country wants to expand the amount of good-paying jobs, it needs to: increase public investment in infrastructure to boost its transportation and manufacturing base; empower workers by strengthening unions, labor standards and collective bargaining; institute universal paid sick and family leave, subsidize child care and promote pay equity; and expand economic security and opportunity through better education, health care and retirement benefits. All of these are issues the Teamsters have been active in promoting and pursuing for years.

Improving the outcomes for workers, however, is only half of the equation, as Stiglitz explains in the document. The U.S. also needs to curb runaway economic policies that allow the nation’s largest business and banking institutions to take in soaring profits at the expense of the public.

This nation needs systematic change. It is time for more lawmakers to declare their independence from big banks and corporate cronies who bend their ears and fill their campaign coffers with cash. Their constituents deserve to have members of Congress who hear their concerns and institute policies to make change happen.