After years of relentless gridlock, Washington has more items on its to-do list than a handyman in Trump Tower!
But there is one priority that stands out above the rest: The American middle class demands that its most basic needs be addressed and quite frankly, it needs a raise.
The median family income has barely budged in the last 15 years. That message was delivered loud and clear in this election. That is why President-elect Donald Trump and the incoming Congress should focus relentlessly early next year on policies that can spur job and wage growth focused toward the middle class.
Start with infrastructure and tax reform. It's no secret our roads, bridges and tunnels are falling apart after decades of neglect, postponement of maintenance and under-investment. A simplification of our cumbersome and uncompetitive tax code could free up badly needed capital for infrastructure investment. Additional funds could come from the more than $2 trillion in profits that U.S. companies are currently holding overseas.
Next, look to support small businesses and entrepreneurs, who are the job engines of our economy. According to the Kauffman Foundation, virtually all net new jobs created in the U.S. over the past three decades—about 1.5 million per year—were created by firms that were less than a year old.
Washington needs to focus, in particular on making it easier for small businesses to get loans and to break free from unnecessary regulatory burdens that force them to spend more time focused on compliance than finding better ways to serve their customers. It is needlessly onerous and expensive to start a business. Regulatory compliance is estimated to cost small businesses more than $10,000 per employee, 36 percent more than the cost to larger businesses, according to an SBA Office of Advocacy report published in 2010.
Finally, there is criminal justice reform. America's unconscionable over-incarceration, particularly of nonviolent offenders, which is creating a permanent underclass with no hope of good employment. It drains government budgets at every level, while consigning ex-prisoners to fewer employment opportunities, lower pay and less mobility for the rest of their lives.