by John Dankosky - Leave it to Jacob Hacker to get people talking about income disparities and Washington’s role in “Winner Take All Politics” - that’s the name of his new book. He’s been on Where We Live in the past to talk about how the middle-class squeeze played out in the 2008 elections. And, he’s talked about his role as the “father of the public option” - clearly too radical an idea for Washington to consider during debate over health care reform.
Today, we talked about the roots of massive inequality – in the late 1970s, with Republican and Democratic administrations colluding with Wall Street interests to keep the top .1% fabulously wealthy and recession-proof, while providing no real growth for the middle class. It’s a trend that plays out in Connecticut as starkly as anywhere.
Among the many calls and comments we got from listeners, here’s a sampling:
KadeKo writes: Many of us don’t worry that the rich get richer, even in downturns, but out of all proportion to the rest of America. I don’t know up to what percentile an economist has to go to find the people who statistically got a raise during the Bush economic expansion, which lasted ~5 years! I’m guessing the bottom two-thirds or 60% of Americans are still wondering why “the economy” did well during a chunk of the last decade, but they didn’t. And while we’re at it, remember that a big chunk of “productivity” is “an exempt salaried worker who is paid for 40 hours and puts in 55″.
Joe McBride writes: An earlier caller made reference to shopping at Walmart being at his discretion. What he didn’t say is that Walmarts business model requires them to restrict the hours of employees to below “full time” status avoiding paying benefits which then puts those costs onto the local economy and taxpayers. Where is real evidence if social responsibility?
Jeanne Moore writes: I agree that tax policy changes over the past 30 years have played a major part in making the rich richer. but deregulation & OUTSOURCING have been drivers of the gap. Outsourcing is depressing American wages for both low & middle class workers. The richest benefit from outsourcing those jobs. Until we reach income parity globally for similar jobs, or US firms stop outsourcing (won’t happen) or we return to very high effective tax rates for the super rich (so we can reduce or effectively eliminate taxes on the middle class), I only are the income gap growing & growing in the US.
Mike Garon writes: Thank you so much for shedding light on this topic for me. Everyone is familiar with the term “the rich get richer” but what is happening in this country today is astonishing to stay the least. As a thirty one year old land surveyor I am increasingly feeling like retirement is but a pipe dream. I don’t want to die working, is there anything the “working slob” can do to change this trend?
Tara writes: We’re all a bunch of fools if we continue to let the government, Wall Street, and billionaires widen the gap between the ultra-rich and us. It’s not enough to vote at the polls. Clearly that’s never made a difference when the politicians are in cahoots with the filthy rich. We need to band together and find a way to take the power back. There’s so few of them, and so many of us. What would it take to start a class war? How much more unjust can it get? How can Goldman Sachs have its best year when the unemployment rate is still so high? Land of the free? I don’t think so. The game was rigged from the start.