New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio railed against a federal government that he said is not stepping up to help the middle class, during an appearance Wednesday in Washington, D.C., alongside U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. The mayor and the senator were guests at the unveiling of a Roosevelt Institute report that addressed ways to improve the lives of working Americans, including implementing paid sick and maternity leave, child care and after-school programs.
De Blasio said some of those reforms have already been enacted in New York City, where he expanded after-school programs and instituted free pre-kindergarten classes to ease the burdens on working families. “The solutions are not on the table in this town, Washington, D.C.,” he said. “We are doing all we can, but we cannot complete the mission without fundamental change in federal policy.”
Income inequality was also on de Blasio’s agenda, saying it’s “not a romantic idea” to have a strong middle class. “We need an economy that rewards work and not just wealth,” he said. “We need to go back to the notion that we want to reward work. It’s time to listen to the people of this country, listen to their hunger for change. It’s up to us to answer their call, their strong demand, in fact, that would create a more just nation and an economy that works for everyone again.”
Warren said “trickle-down economics” implemented in the 1980s have been to the detriment of the middle class. She pointed out that from 1935 to 1979, 90 percent of all workers got 70 percent of all income growth in the U.S., but 90 percent got 0 percent of the income growth from 1980 to 2012.
“It is a hard squeeze for many working families, but it wasn’t always this way,” she said, adding that the country needs to invest in education, public transportation and research to expand the wealth of the middle class.
“The country is in real trouble,” she said. “The game is rigged and we are running out of time. We cannot continue to run this country for the top 10 percent.”
The New York City mayor has raised his national profile in recent months, making stops in Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska to tout progressive values. At the same time, he has been reluctant to endorse former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 candidacy, which has been seen as a snub. De Blasio was Clinton’s campaign manager during her successful run for U.S. Senate in New York in 2000.
De Blasio, like Warren, has said he will not run for president. But his appearances outside of New York City have positioned him as the person to give Clinton a seal of approval from progressives. When he campaigned for mayor in 2013, he advocated for free pre-kindergarten classes, paid sick leave and narrowing the income inequality gap.
Those are issues seen as lacking in Clinton’s platform. The former secretary of state has been criticized by progressives for being too close to Wall Street.
De Blasio was set to talk further about a progressive “Contract With America” near the Capitol building at 3 p.m. EDT, which you can view here.