Abram Olmstead  | August 6, 2013

Build the Economy from the Bottom Up, Not Middle Out

In a recent New York Times editorial, the Editorial Board ripped on the president for tackling the struggling economy from the middle out – a strategy seen as ineffective in creating the number of jobs necessary to put a serious dent in the unemployment rate. During one of his speeches, the president said he will use “whatever executive authority [he has] to help out the middle class.”

In the first six months of his second term, President Obama has sought to revamp the American economy with this mindset. And, even though the economy has continued to create jobs during the past few months (including 162,000 jobs in July), the latest reports indicate there has been only a mediocre track record of job-creation. And, according to the New York Times, last quarter’s economic growth study revealed that GDP only increased 1.4% during the past year, a definitive drop off compared to years’ past.

This trajectory is simply not good enough to return the economy to pre-recession employment levels anytime soon. In fact, according to the Hamilton Project’s jobs gap calculator, at the current rate, it will take 10 years and 9 months to return to pre-recession employment levels.

Zero Hedge, a financial sector news website, also reported that 77% of the jobs created in 2013 are part-time, and the New York Times noted in their editorial that more than half of the 162,000 jobs added in July were in the low-wage areas of retail and restaurants. The Times called these figures “a stark illustration of this nation’s shift to lower-quality jobs and lower wages.”

Improving job opportunities for the middle class is critical, but what is needed to move the entire economy forward is a plan devoted to building from the bottom up.

When hardworking American entrepreneurs are free to build their own businesses and pursue their dreams, innovation thrives and jobs are born. What begins in the back of a food truck or as a seemingly frivolous idea in an abandoned warehouse leads to businesses that can fuel our economy and drive this country forward.

During the past two months, two tour guides took a cross-country road trip to check out sights, visit local events, talk to small businesses and entrepreneurs, and tell the stories of free enterprise in America. Let’s take a look at a few examples to prove just how free enterprise can help get this country back on track.

In Cut Off, a small town in Louisiana, for example, 72 year-old Webster Piece has invented the Wave Robber, a floating shield against the relentless waves threatening the Bayou region. Awarded the top prize at one of New Orleans’ premiere startup competitions, the Wave Robber may just be the region’s last hope for a bright future and could help save numerous businesses along the way.

In another example, Travis Kent, co-owner of Farewell Books, has invited local entrepreneurs to set up shop in the bookstore and, in doing so, helped revitalize his struggling establishment. In addition to offering hundreds of new and used books, Farewell is now home to a tailor, an artisan coffee shop, a vintage clothing store, and a vegetarian sandwich trailer. Today, all independent sides of this multi-party business are thriving under the same roof.

Those are just a couple of the thousands of stories illustrating exactly what it takes to rebuild this nation’s economy.

It doesn’t all have to come through the middle class – we have the engines to grow this economy all around us. We just need to start them.