Lawmakers sound alarm on shrinking middle class as inflation hits a high

Lawmakers sound alarm on shrinking middle class as inflation hits a high

MILWAUKEE — House lawmakers are mulling the future of the middle class, as economic challenges and inflation continue to burden Americans.

Members of a special House committee studying economic disparity talked to local leaders in Kenosha and Milwaukee to discuss issues such as housing affordability, the labor shortage, and racial inequality.

Rep. Jim Himes, Connecticut Democrat and panel chairman, said it’s become harder to achieve middle-class status in a changing economy.

“It’s not a free market, laissez-faire world where that guy with a third grade education becomes middle class,” Mr. Himes said. “This economy is moving fast. Robots are taking over machine learning. If we’re going to be serious about the middle class, it’s very different from whatever way it was 70 years ago.”

Mr. Himes was joined by Wisconsin U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore, a Democrat, and Bryan Steil, the ranking Republican on the committee.

Ms. Moore cited home ownership as the path for people to acquire wealth and achieve the American Dream. She said fewer barriers should be placed for those wanting to take out loans and mortgages to buy homes.

“The greatest source of wealth for most families is their house,” Ms. Moore said. “There’s been no recovery in the United States from an economic downturn that doesn’t involve the housing industry recovery, and that’s how you build generational wealth.”

Mr. Steil said in addition to the federal government helping local areas, leaders in the private sector and local officials should think of policy solutions to help mitigate economic barriers.

The congressman said inflation is one of the top factors that are making it difficult for people to get by financially.

“For far too many families, inflation is one of the biggest challenges brought up today in regards to rent,” Mr. Steil said. “One of the big concerns I have when the left talks about inequality, the easy solution is to bring the top down, that doesn’t help the bottom at all. It’s all about moving the bottom up.”

The members visited the state on the same day that a Labor Department report said inflation rose to 8.5% over the past year, the biggest increase since December 1981.

The committee, proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in December 2020, is made up of eight Democrats and six Republicans.
The Wisconsin trip marks the third visit the panel took outside of the District.

They previously went to the Silicon Valley in California and Lorain, Ohio, to look at ways to revitalize the Rust Belt.

Members of the committee are expected to produce a report later this year with policy solutions to the country’s leading economic issues.