Experts Call for a Greater Focus on the Economy in the Fourth Democratic Debate; Warn Against Relying on Faulty Economic Ideas

Author: Heather Boushey

Washington, D.C.Ahead of the fourth Democratic primary presidential debate, Dr. Heather Boushey, president and CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth; Chris Hughes, co-chair of the Economic Security Project; Michael Linden, executive director of the Groundwork Collaborative; and Dr. Felicia Wong, president and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute—released the following joint statement.

“Economic policies have a profound effect on peoples’ lives and for far too many people, the status quo is simply not working. Wage growth continues to disappoint, income inequality has reached record highs, and millions of Americans cannot cover an unexpected $400 expense.

Moreover, despite his claims, the economy appears to be worsening under President Trump. Job growth has slowed, the manufacturing sector appears to be contracting, and leading indicators like the inverted yield curve suggest that the country could be headed for another recession.

For these reasons and many more, most who tune into the fourth Democratic debate will be expecting to hear presidential candidates talk about how they would fix a system that remains fundamentally rigged in favor of the wealthy to instead build an inclusive, prosperous economy for all. We urge moderators to ensure that the economy takes center stage during the debate and that it is discussed in terms that are relevant to everyday people, not just the wealthy or CEOs.

Debate questions should help voters evaluate what the candidates are offering, and what their overall economic approach would look like. The moderators should also be careful not to inadvertently advance outdated and disproven narratives about how the economy works. Taxes, for instance, play an important role in building economic prosperity by checking excessive concentrations of private power, by raising revenue that can be invested in the public’s interest, and by structuring markets more fairly. Unfortunately, too often questions tend to frame taxes as inherently more costly than other types of costs people face, or fail to acknowledge the important role they play in our economy and democracy.

In addition, a recurring focus on how ‘expensive’ it might be to address pressing societal and economic needs misses the forest for the trees.

Failing to address systemic inequality is a choice with a real and tangible opportunity cost. Policymakers can make a different choice.

Similarly, we urge the moderators to be mindful not to separate issues of racism, xenophobia, and bigotry from economic matters. They are all connected. Economies that depend on exclusion and extraction are weaker, less stable, and—of course—unjust. Fostering inclusion and belonging is both a moral imperative and an economic one.

We urge the moderators to reveal important insights about the economic worldview of each candidate, and we hope to see economic questions that invoke answers everyday people will care about.”


October 15, 2019

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