Proving that he is serious about improving the lot of the average American, President Barack Obama, in one of his first tasks as chief executive, created a top-level White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families to be chaired by Vice President Joseph Biden.
A key objective of the initiative is to improve work and family balance, which President Obama himself defined as a measure that must include telework, paid family leave, and flexible work schedules in a letter last fall to John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees.
"Quite simply, a strong middle class equals a strong America – you can’t have one without the other," Biden stated in announcing the initiative. "This Task Force will be an important vehicle to assess new and existing polices across the board and to determine if they are helping or hurting the middle class."
The Task Force – which will include senior administration policymakers, including the secretaries of Labor, Commerce, Education, and Health and Human Services, as well as the director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget – will work to expedite administrative reforms, propose executive orders, and develop legislative and policy proposals that serve the needs and concerns of working families.
The group also will conduct outreach sessions with representatives from the labor, business, and advocacy communities and is seeking input from the general public, who is encouraged to submit ideas on the Task Force’s Web site: www.aStrongMiddleClass.gov
Other Task Force goals include expanding education and lifelong training opportunities; restoring labor standards, including workplace safety; helping to protect middle-class and working-family incomes; and protecting retirement security.
Jared Bernstein, formerly of the Economic Policy Institute and now an economic adviser to Vice President Biden, will act as executive director of the Task Force.
In an editorial written for USA Today, Biden discussed the initiative and noted that while jumpstarting the economy remains the Obama administration’s top priority, it will not let the middle class fall through the cracks when prosperity returns.
"Once this economy starts growing again, we need to make sure the benefits of that growth reach the people responsible for it," Biden wrote. "We can’t stand by and watch as that narrow sliver at the top of the income scale wins a bigger piece of the pie – while everyone else gets smaller and smaller slices."