We have a big problem with economic opportunity in this country. Real wages for average Americans have stayed almost flat since 1980, even though our economy as a whole is producing more wealth than ever before. The problem is that nearly all of those gains have gone to the richest 1% of American families. Most of us are working just as hard as our parents and grandparents — or maybe even harder — but that hard work isn't benefitting our pocketbooks the way it ought to.
There's no one explanation for why working folks are getting squeezed. Free trade agreements are certainly part of the problem: if you doubt that NAFTA took a real toll on Virginian workers, join me on a tour of Southside or the Shenandoah Valley, and I'd be happy to educate you. A low minimum wage doesn't help, either- but just raising the minimum wage isn't an answer that will fix what ails our economy.
Free trade and minimum wage are just two examples of a larger problem. Somewhere along the way, the government stopped enabling Virginians to power their own success. Politicians today are too quick to tilt the playing field in favor of lobbyists, special interests, and the wealthy.
If you're a college basketball fan, you might think of this as the "Carolina Ref" phenomenon: referees putting their thumbs on the scale for certain blue-blooded Atlantic Coast Conference teams. And this habit of favoring people with privilege isn't restricted to one party or another. It is endemic to our political system.
Here's the thing: I've yet to meet a Virginian who wants special treatment or "makeup calls" of their own. We just want a fair fight— a game where everyone plays by the same rules.
That's why everyone loves those "Cinderella stories" during March Madness. Given the same opportunities as anyone else, even the biggest underdog can come out ahead if they work hard enough. I truly believe that ideal is the backbone of our country. And it's an ideal I'm committed to making a reality every single day I'm in office. I want to get rid of special treatment in all its forms, from tax loopholes to corporate welfare to gerrymandering. I want to improve access to affordable, high-quality childcare so that every parent who wants to work has the opportunity to do so. And I want to make sure that banks, insurance companies, hospitals, and other powerful interests play fair and square with ordinary people.