Nancy Pelosi’s Middle Class Jumpstart
By Amber Reumont
Former House Majority leader and Baltimore-born politician, Nancy Pelosi, recently ignited a campaign to win support for House Democrats as the Fall elections inch closer. Pelosi and fellow candidates have pledged to make strengthening the middle class their 2015 priority. The Middle Class Jumpstart is a collection of bills House Democrats plans to pass as soon as possible if they win control of the House of Representatives following the elections. The campaign focuses on 2015 because these bills have little chance of passing in the current congress, as House Republicans have denied their support for such laws. The bills given the highest priority focus on creating jobs, leveling the playing field for women, and ensuring higher education is readily available and affordable.
Pelosi and fellow Democrats have many bills on their agenda aimed at growing and strengthening the middle class. In particular, expanding opportunity to women is a priority because the paychecks earned by women are an increasingly important aspect of family budgets. Among the bills given top priority is a proposal to raise the minimum wage, a chief goal of the Obama administration. Raising the minimum wage would especially aid women in achieving economic stability because they make up the largest proportion of minimum wage workers in the country, significantly outnumbering men. As dual-earning families become the middle class norm, a higher minimum wage would allow women to contribute more to their family budget. Additionally, the National Women’s Law Center points outs, “More than three-quarters of women earning the minimum wage are age 20 or older, and most do not have a spouse’s income to rely on.” Raising the wage could grow the middle class by lifting some people out of poverty thereby strengthening the economy.
Another goal of the Middle Class Jumpstart campaign particularly helping women is the expansion of paid family leave. Motherhood is a significant contributor to the gender wage gap, for women are more likely to take unpaid time off to care for a sick family member. Pelosi explains the importance of paid family leave in an Op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle: “Across the country, only 12 percent of American workers have access to paid family leave through their employers to care for a new child or seriously ill family member. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave for new mothers.” Pelosi is a representative from California, and in her home state paid family leave allows women and men to balance the burdens of work and family more easily by allowing workers the opportunity to care for a child, spouse, parent, parent-in-law, sibling, or grandparent without worrying about their income.
The last major priority on the House Democrats’ 2015 agenda is the cost of college as student debt climbs rapidly. Assisting students in their efforts to repay their loans would strengthen the future of the middle class. College graduates are finding the typical middle class lifestyle further and further out of reach due to the large amounts of debt they incur upon graduating. Pelosi’s campaign is primarily backing the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act to ease the burden of student debt; the bill would give borrowers the opportunity to refinance their loans to lower, more reasonable rates, while also expanding access to financial aid. The Senate’s resident student debt crusader, Elizabeth Warren, sponsors the bill. Although college has begun to seem like a lifelong debt sentence, it remains among the strongest investments a person can make.
Though the Middle Class Jumpstart campaign is aimed at strengthening the men and women at the backbone of America, women’s issues are particularly important because increasing the economic stability of women would benefit the economy as a whole. Pelosi explains the prioritization of women’s issues as a part of the Middle Class Jumpstart campaign, stating, “when women succeed, America succeeds.” Women are disproportionately affected by the minimum wage, paid family leave, and student debt; therefore, attacking these problems will strengthen a significant portion of familial earners by providing them with a livable wage, compassionate compensation for leave, and reasonable interest rates. Women are an increasingly important part of the workforce and familial earnings, and raising the earning ability of women will strongly impact the middle class.