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Five Economic Challenges That Need More Policy Attention

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As we head into State of the Union season this winter, it is abundantly clear that the U.S. economy is in need of critical policy attention. More than five years into the current economic recovery, there is still a marked disconnect between declining economic opportunities for America’s middle class (and those aspiring to join those ranks) and the policy realm, which has either ignored this deteriorating situation or even exacerbated it.

Serious economic challenges exist at the personal level for middle class Americans and at the macroeconomic level in communities across the country. Personal economic anxieties played a significant role in the last fall’s congressional elections. While many in the media or in the current administration seek to portray these feelings as mysterious or unfounded, a close look at recent economic data shows that the typical American faces real economic insecurity, shrinking job opportunities, declining upward mobility, and a growing inability to save and accumulate wealth. In addition, our nation’s large and rising foreign debt—much of which grows out of an unsustainable federal budget deficit—exacerbates these insecurities and threatens future improvements in most Americans’ standard of living.

It is time to take seriously the concerns of hard working families and then set our policy priorities straight. In particular, there are five immediate key economic challenges that deserve attention and cannot be ignored.