Congress trying to save the middle class

US Capitol Building

TEXT OF STORY

BOB MOON: The best of times, the worst of times. That's the subject of hearings continuing on Capitol Hill today. The House Financial Services Committee wants to know: Why are middle class Americans are feeling pinched even when the economy seems healthy? Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke tried to answer that question for the committee yesterday. Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Bernanke painted a rosy economic picture. He said inflation is under control and housing is picking up. But Bernanke acknowledged that ordinary Americans aren't sharing in the good times.
BEN BERNANKE: There has been a long-term trend toward increased inequality in the United States. I think most recently there has been some improvement for production workers.

Bernanke says their average hourly earnings have gone up, but he says education should be made more readily available.

And today the committee will hear from University of Michigan economist Rebecca Blank. She says many workers' wages are stagnating and they feel left behind.

REBECCA BLANK: That sense of failing to achieve the things that are part of the American dream: your own house, a job with a pension and health benefits, the opportunity to send your kids to college.

Today is the committee's second day of hearings on the apparent mismatch between the economy and Americans' standard of living.

It marks the beginning of the panel's focus on how Congress can help close the gap.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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