Merkley Focuses On Middle Class Families In First Hearing As Chair Of Economic Policy Subcommittee

Washington, DC – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley held his first hearing as Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Policy of the Senate Banking Committee. The topic was “The State of the American Dream: Economic Policy and the Future of the Middle Class.” Seeking to include voices not normally heard in committee hearings and public policy debates, the witnesses on the panel included Oregonians who have struggled through the recent recession and were featured in the documentary movie “American Winter.” 

“Today we heard the heartbreaking stories of families from Oregon who were hit hard by the Great Recession and the loss of living wage jobs,” Merkley said. “These families, like all families, didn’t expect to be asking for help to pay their utilities and mortgage payments, but the Great Recession and the shrinking of the middle class that has occurred over the last 30 years has taken a harsh toll on working families. We need to reorient our economic policies as a nation toward what would lift up folks like Ms. Melson, Mr. Cox, and Ms. Thatcher, and make the American dream real again.”

The panel featured Ms. Diedre Melson; Mr. John Cox; and Ms. Pamela Thatcher, subjects of the documentary movie “American Winter,” which debuted on HBO in March 2013. In “American Winter,” Emmy®-winning filmmakers Joe and Harry Gantz (CBS’ “The Defenders”) profile eight struggling families who called into the 211info social services hotline in search of help. The film presents an intimate snapshot of the state of the nation’s economy as it is playing out in the lives of many American families, and reveals the human consequences of rising economic insecurity, budget cuts to safety net programs, and the fracturing of the American dream.

Also testifying were Dr. Atif Mian, Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Princeton University; Ms. Amy Traub, Senior Policy Analyst, Demos; Mr. Nick Hanauer, Second Avenue Partners; and Mr. Steve Hill, Executive Director, Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. They testified on public policy options for restoring the American dream.