Editor's Note

Editor's Note by William McKenzie, Editor of The Catalyst

What compassionate conservatism means for the middle class

This issue of The Catalyst launches the first of four consecutive editions that focus on the meaning of compassionate conservatism today.

As Texas’ governor, George W. Bush ran for the White House on that philosophy, so we asked the 43rd president to give readers a look back at its origins. He also discusses how compassionate conservatism applies to contemporary challenges 18 years later, including how it might elevate more Americans into the middle class.

Similarly, our editorial board offers its views on what this set of values means in today’s world. Drawing from an address that President Bush delivered in London in November 2003, the editors’ open letter explains the relevance of such principles as open societies ordered by moral conviction, private markets humanized by compassionate government, economies that reward effort, communities that protect the weak, and the duty of nations to respect the dignity and the rights of all.

Of course, barriers to the middle class exist on many fronts. One of the most critical is the deadly opioid crisis. Admiral James Winnefeld recalls the loss of his son to a drug overdose and offers proposals for Washington, states, and families to deal with this crisis for the good of families and our economy. A panel of working women, economists, and policy experts, including Natalie Gonnella-Platts, deputy director of the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative, comment on barriers to opportunity for women. Lindsay Lloyd, deputy director of the Bush Institute’s Human Freedom Initiative, reports on recent polling data from the Bush Institute, Penn Biden Center, and Freedom House as he observes why our democracy will suffer if only educated whites see a way to success. And three Presidential Leadership Scholars — Isabel González Whitaker, Chequan Lewis, and Tina Tran  address whether democracy is working for all Americans.

To deal with these and other obstacles, The Catalyst  looks at strategies that might help more Americans enter the middle class, stay there, and even move beyond. A fierce debate is raging over the best ways to do that, so we asked people from a number of perspectives to address how to build up the backbone of our economy.

Matthew Rooney, managing director of the Bush Institute/SMU Economic Growth Initiative, explains how tariffs will likely retard growth in the middle class. His colleague Cullum Clark, a SMU economics professor and director of the shared initiative, proposes a revival of the ownership society that President Bush promoted as a way to solidify the middle class. In detailing how international trade is not responsible for the loss of most middle-tier jobs, SMU Economics Professor James Lake reports how  smaller communities might offer more opportunities to enter the middle class. And Col. Matthew Amidon, director of the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative, explains how veterans are a staple of the middle class, including the fact that most started as the children of the middle class.

Recognizing that the road to the middle class starts in childhood, Matthew Rose, a former Fortune 500 CEO, argues that more companies should offer their employees high-quality child care. Anne Wicks, the Bush Institute’s education reform director, points to schools putting kids on the path from poverty to the middle class and beyond. Ed Gillespie, the former GOP chairman who ran for governor and senator in Virginia and worked in the Bush White House, delivers a sharp critique of elites who sneer at Americans who work with their hands and on their feet and argues for education strategies that help more Americans find work in the skilled trades. And with the cost of college fast outpacing the pocketbooks of middle-class families, Holly Kuzmich, the Bush Institute’s executive director, explains why higher education needs to rethink its model.

Please let us know your thoughts on these topics – and other ways to expand America’s middle class.  Meanwhile, we will continue to explore how compassionate conservatism applies to contemporary challenges.

Letters to the Editor: Your Response to the Summer 2018 Your Town Catalyst

Re: Anne Snyder’s Millennials Reinvent Localism in Their Search for Community

This is a good piece and does help to show younger readers that we can do better for our communities without the mudslinging. And maybe we can agree to disagree on issues and help make the country and our cities and towns work well again.

My daughter is around the ages of these young people and she feels like they do. She wants to make a difference while on this planet, and for the good. But she also does not want to be a financial burden while doing so.

May we all learn from not just our elders, but our youth as well. Well done young lady, great article.

Mrs. Kelly Freeman
Hendersonville, Tennessee

Re: Yuval Levin’s Going Local in a Troubled Time

I am in total agreement with Mr. Levin about the benefits of localism. Devolving the power from Washington back to local communities must be a key priority. A concerted effort will be required if there is to be any chance of localism to succeed.

Edward Wallace
Edinburg, Texas

Re: Our Politics Should Address the Rebirth of Community

Great interview with Ben Sasse. He has a lot of good points I wish more people would see. 


Mark Tapee
Sachse, Texas

Re: J.H. Cullum Clark’s The Boom in Urban Housing Prices is Holding Back Economic Growth

This article is well presented from one side only. It does not talk about how wages have not kept up with the cost-of-living.

Contrary to popular belief in Washington D.C., the minimum wage is not a training wage. Today, it is the wage of many workers. Yes, some cities and states have raised the minimum wage to double digits. However, the federal minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour. That is only $6.00 dollars more than what I made in 1953, while the cost of housing, food, clothing, medicine, and health care have continued to rise.

Also, as we have seen recently with the massive tax cut for the wealthy, none of this has “trickled down.” We have a very unfair tax code, while nothing is said about corporate welfare.

Ann Marie Cunningham
Chicago, Illinois

Re: Andrew Selee’s How a Mining Town Evolved Through Immigration

Enjoyed your article. My grandfather, John Yaccino, was an immigrant from Italy who settled in Hazleton in the 1920s. He worked in the coal mines, married, and raised five children before leaving and moving to Chicago.

As for Joe Maddon, The Catalyst, and others, I say keep up the good work.

Patricia Mulvihill
Lisle, Illinois

Leave your feedback with The Catalyst editors