With so many Mainers having to work harder and harder to make ends meet, the simple truth is that our economy is leaving workers and families behind. Since 2001, Maine has lost a net of 37,000 middle class jobs – mostly in manufacturing. They have been replaced by low-wage jobs that lack protections and basic benefits like healthcare, retirement, and paid family leave.
With the loss of these good-paying jobs, the poverty rate in Maine has risen. In our rural counties, 40 percent of working families are living at or near the poverty line, and one in five Maine children live in food insecure homes. Startlingly, Maine ranks third highest among the nation for rates of households with extreme food insecurity.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, the concentration of wealth among the richest one percent has increased, while middle- and working-class wages have flatlined. Between 2002 and 2016, middle class wages have gone up just three percent. At the same time, the costs of living, healthcare, and education have grown at a much higher rate.
In 2016, two-thirds of Maine voters thought their family’s financial situation was the same or worse than it was in 2012. They are not wrong. Our district’s economy has not yet recovered from the economic crash, and Maine’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) remains below its pre-recession level. Meanwhile, New England’s GDP has grown by eight percent and the country’s GDP has grown by 13 percent.
In order to grow Maine’s middle class and improve working people’s lives, we must take action.
- Invest in infrastructure to help Maine’s rural economy. In addition to repairing our roads and bridges, the federal government must prioritize expanding broadband and bringing faster Internet to our communities so all Mainers can compete in the 21st century economy.
- Level the playing field for small businesses by taking a common-sense approach to regulation. That means holding big corporations who break the rules accountable, without putting small business-owners at a disadvantage. We should break up monopolies that prevent small businesses from competing in the market, and leave consumers without choice.
- End unfair trade agreements that benefit the world’s wealthiest corporations. U.S. trade deals should put American workers and American businesses first.
- Grow the renewable energy sector. With proper investment we can reduce electricity costs, lower carbon emissions, and create high-quality, good-paying jobs.
- Strengthen our state’s manufacturing base. Maine is capable of making goods and products to sell to the rest of the world. We should be investing in research, development, and commercialization in order to help manufacturers bring Maine products to market.
- Support traditional Maine jobs in the farming, fishing, agriculture, and forest products industries. With proper investment, and with a commitment from the government to help them adapt to a changing economy, these industries can be made more competitive and more secure.
- Prioritize federal policies that benefit middle- and working-class people. That means creating a fair tax plan, ensuring healthcare is affordable, protecting programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, fighting for stronger unions, increasing wages, and eliminating the pay gap between men and women.