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Who can save the middle class?

Middle class wages are stagnant, income inequality has been rising, and the odds of someone born into the lowest income quintile reaching the top quintile are a little more than half as good in the U.S. as in Canada. That's the context for a central debate in the 2016 presidential race: How to address the struggles of the middle class.

Two of the most important policy architects in the next election will be Republican Yuval Levin and Democrat Neera Tanden.

Levin, editor of the influential conservative policy journal National Affairs, is a top adviser to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and to Florida Senator Marco Rubio. He recently met with Republican presidential front-runner Jeb Bush to discuss ways to strengthen the middle class.

Tanden is president of the Center for American Progress, the nation's most influential liberal think tank. She was policy director for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and will play an important role in any Clinton campaign in 2016.

These two have a few areas of agreement, but very different approaches. Levin and some allied conservative thinkers are fashioning initiatives that stress reform, rather than elimination, of federal welfare programs, deregulation and family-centered tax cuts rather than supply-side tax cuts.

Tanden's Center for American Progress has advocated fiscal stimulus measures, stronger unions and incentives for companies to create worker-friendly policies.

Following is anexcerpt from an interview with Tanden and Levin from the Charlie Rose Show, first aired Wednesday on the Public Broadcasting Service and rebroadcast Thursdayon Bloomberg Television.

To contact the author on this story: Albert Hunt at