Economic Experts Weigh In on How to Help the Middle Class

Most experts would agree that no one has been hit harder by this difficult economy than the middle class. So as part of our series "The Comeback: Saving America's Middle Class," we have reached out to economic experts to get their opinions on what needs to be done to make the middle class as robust as it once was.

We also want to hear from you. What do you think of the solutions provided below? Would they be helpful to you? What do you think needs to be done in order to help the middle class?

VIDEO: The Middle Class Wants More from Banks

Watch "The Comeback: Saving America's Middle Class" all week on "World News with Diane Sawyer" and at

Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley

Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley. Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. Member of President-Elect Obama's transition advisory board.

Responsibilities of the big banks: Help out struggling homeowners who are "under water," owing more on their homes than the homes are worth. The big banks should refinance the mortgages, reducing the principal as well as interest rates.

Help out struggling small businesses, whose jobs are the life blood of the economy. The big banks should establish a revolving credit fund to aid small businesses (and the smaller banks that lend to them).

At the least, stop blocking legislation that would allow struggling homeowners to put their homes into bankruptcy and thereby have special masters oversee orderly repayment schedules.

Stop blocking legislation that would establish a consumer financial protection agency, so consumers in the future weren't misled into taking out loans they couldn't possibly repay.

Lobby government for a bailout of public education – interest-free loans to states and locales to avoid more layoffs of teachers, shorter school weeks, shorter school years, and tuition hikes for community colleges and public universities – arguing that "human capital" in terms of the skills and insights of our nation's people is even more important than financial capital, which got bailed out.

William Poole, senior fellow at the Cato Institute

William Poole, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the President and Chief Executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis from 1998 to 2008

I believe that banks have the same responsibility every business has – to do business ethically. But no business, in my view, should view its role as that of a charitable entity. Banks and other businesses do make charitable contributions but should leave charitable decisions to the charities.

The issue is this: Do we want a bank, or any other business, to make judgments as to which of its customers is deserving of help and which is not? No business is well positioned to make such judgments. And if a bank does provide assistance to certain customers, who should bear the cost? Other customers, in the form of higher fees and other charges? Shareholders, some of which may be pension funds and university endowments, for example, that need dividends to support their own missions? Asking any business to help struggling families has surface appeal, but a deeper evaluation shows how flawed the idea is. Indeed, even the way your question is phrased reveals the weakness of the idea. Why should aid go to middle class families rather than to the very poor?

David Kotok, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, Cumberland Advisors

David Kotok, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer, Cumberland Advisors

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...