For all its rhetorical potency, the policy implications of the ‘squeezed middle’ are yet to be fully explored. This article looks at what the phenomenon means for the design and prosecution of progressive economic policy. It argues that any progressive government today needs to adopt a new first order goal of economic policy: ensuring that the material wellbeing of ordinary working people rises when the economy grows, a project referred to as ‘building a rising tide economy’. This objective would sit in addition to the traditional goals of sustained GDP growth, high employment, low inflation and poverty reduction. It would have real implications across a range of important policy areas.