LABOR DAY SPECIAL. Tapped will be closed for Labor Day -- but have no fear, there's still TAP Online content you can enjoy today at the barbeque. Today we're kicking off a debate that tackles two related questions -- just how is the middle class actually faring in the contemporary economy, and how should Democrats and progressives adjust their middle-class appeal accordingly? Labor economist Steve Rose has been making waves in the past year with a critique of the Democratic economic message as being both overly gloomy and overly concerned with a set of government programs that does not actually directly benefit large parts of the middle class. (See here and here for his argument.) An exchange of letters between Rose and our own Bob Kuttner in the latest print issue of the Prospect set the stage for this Labor Day week debate, and kicking things off today are two new pieces: EPI president Lawrence Mishel offers a thorough response to Rose's recent work and argues that a populist economic appeal still speaks to the broad American middle, while Rose himself argues explicitly that progressives' pessimistic economic message "doesn't resonate with the middle class -- not only because it's overly negative (by itself political poison), but because it's simply flat out wrong."