by Jeremy Leaming
As much as they claim to loathe government, right-wing policy makers adore government assistance to the nation’s superrich.
The economic policies, including weakened regulation of the financial industry, pushed by a party that has become behold to the superrich ushered in the Great Recession and the gaping economic inequality that the nation seems to be slowly awakening. Yet likely not fast enough. The number in poverty is on track, The Associated Press reported in July, to reach “levels unseen in nearly half a century,” and wiping out gains to lessen poverty that were seen in the 1960s. These economic policies center on tax cuts for the wealthiest, dwindling social services, along with weak regulation of the financial industry.
“The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year,” Columbia Business School Professor Joseph Stiglitz wrote last year. “In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent.”
Stiglitz noted in the same article how woefully out touch the wealthiest are – they can take care of themselves just fine and are numb to the plight of a family of three that must somehow survive on an annual income of less than $38,000.
So what can be done to reverse the situation? It appears rather hopeless, since the superrich are also the most powerful and have been able to keep alive the economic policies that have benefited them at a great cost to everyone else. During this year’s ACS National Convention Peter Edelman, a Georgetown University law school professor and longtime advocate for the nation’s most vulnerable said the shrinking middle class must become far more vocal in calling for an end to disastrous economic policies.
In a recent op-ed for The New York Times, Edelman (pictured), also chair of the ACS Board, said we know “what we need to do – make the rich pay their fair share of running the country, raise the minimum wage, provide health care and a decent safety net, and the like”
But to do all those things, Edelman said the people in the middle must vote in way that represents “their own economic self-interest.” In other words the middle class needs cease identify with the super wealthy. As long as people in the middle identify more with people on the top than with those on the bottom, we are doomed,” he wrote.
In his Times’ op-ed Edelman sounds a positive note, citing the Progressive era and actions following the Great Depression, in the effort to push economic policies that advance the fortunes of many people.
But the work is daunting. The nation’s social safety net, as Edelman and others have long noted has taken a beating due to right-wing economic policy. In his new book So Rich, So Poor, he details the devastating impact to minorities and single parents that a tattered social safety net has wrought.
Stiglitz noted a year ago in his Vanity Fair article that the powerful few often stand in the way of policy that would improve the lives many more people. But they do so at their peril. “The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live,” he wrote. “Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.”