Thomas Perez was Obama’s Labor Secretary pick 15 months ago, and he’s emerging as top contender for Attorney General as well. Is it any wonder that he gave a major speech at the National Press Club this week to share his vision of America? Entitled, “Calling for an Economy That Works for Everyone”, Perez discusses the concept of “shared prosperity”.
How many times did he use that phrasing? Try 20 times. These phrases were bold in the speech:
*”An economy that works for everyone is one where prosperity is broadly shared.”
*”The principal unfinished business of this recovery is to ensure that prosperity is broadly shared, and that we build an economy that works for everyone.”
So what is “shared prosperity”? Perez describes, “Step one involves tearing up the talking points and understanding history. Shared prosperity is not a fringe concept cooked up by socialists. Historically, both parties have embraced it with their words and their actions. In fact, it’s a principle as American as apple pie, and it’s the linchpin of a thriving middle class.”
He then cites Teddy Roosevelt, Goldman Sachs CEO, and Janet Yellen as supporters of this concept.
Perez went on to describe three major initiatives which consisted of: raising the minimum wage, more federal spending on infrastructure, and immigration reform. Perez states that a majority of small businesses support a minimum wage increase. He further declared that “shared prosperity” is found in “big bold policy initiatives”, such as “comprehensive immigration reform” (hint: amnesty). Perez claims that immigration reform would raise the GDP 5.4% over the next 20 years and raise wages for workers. This is in contrast to the CBO report that suggests wages would actually be lowered.
Other facets of Perez’s vision of prosperity include: paid leave, job training, and the “importance of the worker voice”, via collective bargaining. Perez particularly praised the collaborative efforts of the SEIU and UAW, calling unions a “critical step” in “shared prosperity”.
Additionally, Perez’s “shared prosperity” called for leadership. Perez’s vision is that of Obama’s: “First, we need leadership from Washington. And if Congress won’t do its part, President Obama has demonstrated that he’ll use his executive, regulatory and convening authorities — his pen and his phone, as he says — to provide that leadership.”
Interestingly, (coincidentally?), “Shared Prosperity” was “Resolution 6” at the Annual AFL-CIO Conference in August 2013. This was held less than a month after Perez became Labor Secretary, and many of its tenets sound remarkably like those championed by Perez, such as:
“• a secure job that pays a living wage in a safe workplace for all who seek one;
• a voice at work—through our unions and through collective bargaining with our employers”
The resolution further describes, “The values of shared prosperity are locked in conflict with the agenda of financial elites and global corporations. But in the end this conflict is self-defeating. A world of radical inequality is not in anyone’s long-term interest. That is why we seek a global economy where worker rights and the environment are protected, an economy where global finance is regulated and put to work to increase shared prosperity.”
You can read the entire agenda here. And apparently, the Washington State Labor Council was so impressed with this idea, they announced their own “shared prosperity” agenda in January 2014. Will other state councils follow suit?
“Shared prosperity”, however, is really nothing new. Hillary Clinton discussed this very concept in a campaign speech from 2007, entitled “ECONOMIC POLICY: Modern Progressive Vision: Shared Prosperity”. And at a campaign fundraiser in 2012, Obama also called for “shared prosperity” in his own speech when he asked folks in Chicago: ““Do we go forward towards a new vision of an America in which prosperity is shared? Or do we go backward to the same policies that got us in this mess in the first place?”.
As our current Secretary of Labor, Perez wished to implement this vision of “shared prosperity” into labor practices for America. If Perez is on the short list for Attorney General, how does he feel about the law? One more excerpt from his speech:
“Leadership also means enforcing the law fairly and independently. At the Labor Department, we’re being more strategic and aggressive than ever about cracking down on wage theft, misclassification and other violations. During the Obama Administration, we’ve recovered more than $1 billion in back wages. We’ve taken enforcement to a whole new level — not only because it gives workers the pay they’ve earned, but also because it levels the playing field and helps the vast majority of employers playing by the rules. Laws are only as effective as the political will of those enforcing them.”
Thomas Perez’s previous position before becoming Labor Secretary was serving as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. No wonder he is a front runner to succeed Eric Holder.