A decades-long decline in the American middle class requires serious, long-lasting measures, former Democratic strategist James Carville told CNBC on Friday.
“This is a long-term problem. Middle-class decline has been going on for 30 years. We tend to think that the world stopped and started with the financial crisis,” he said on “The Kudlow Report.” “To them, as I say in the book, it’s like someone with pneumonia getting hit by a truck. And it’s a long way back for these people.”
Carville, a political author who previously served as an advisor to President Clinton, recently co-authored with Stanley Greenberg an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, titled, “The Middle Class Needs a Lifeline.”
In it, they write, “Today, high school graduates' first jobs pay less than they did in 1973. We are looking back on three decades with fewer and fewer jobs offering health-care or retirement benefits, with people working longer hours and taking on more debt. College costs take a higher proportion of income, even as it becomes harder for the non-college-educated to get their kids to college and social mobility declines. The working-class family is collapsing and only the college-educated are seeing real gains in life expectancy.
“So, if the middle class faces a humanitarian crisis, why haven't we moved to address it? Where is the presidential commission on this? Or the Congressional Select Committee on the Expansion and Restoration of the Middle Class?”
Carville and Greenberg, who also recently published a book, “It’s the Middle Class, Stupid,” argue that polling shows that a majority of “voters want to raise taxes on top earners, senior corporate executives and companies that outsource jobs.”
Fixing the middle-class malaise would require bold action, the article argued.
“The actual solution to our economic situation is straightforward: increased government spending, well in excess of what the 2009 Recovery Act contemplated and what a tea party-dominated Congress would now allow,” they wrote.
Carville told host Larry Kudlow that he was “a thousand percent” in favor of private sector — as the recipient of government spending.
“If you build something, the private sector builds it,” he said. “If you build the bomb, the government doesn’t build the bomb. The bomb company builds the bomb.”
With the United States needing infrastructure investment, Carville said it was the perfect time for the government to spend the money to make the improvements and put people back to work. Those jobs, he argued, would put money in the hands of people who would spend it.
“The problem with our economy today is not that we don’t have enough supply,” he said. “It’s that we don’t have enough demand.”
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH JAMES CARVILLE: Part 1 / Part 2