More Voices Needed to Counter Economic Policy that Creates More Poverty, Peter Edelman Says

June 12, 2012

by Jeremy Leaming

The nation’s middle class should demand far more of the tiny group of American’s that controls the vast majority of the nation’s wealth. If not, the growing wealth gap, according to numerous leading economists, is destined to seriously undermine democracy.

For example, Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz has warned on numerous occasions about the dangers economic inequalities pose to a healthy democracy. And the number of Americans living in poverty is at its highest since the Great Depression. The Census Bureau reported last year on the nation’s shrinking middle class and growing number of Americans that have been thrown into poverty. 

One of the nation’s greatest advocates for solving poverty, Peter Edelman, a law professor at Georgetown University and ACS Board Chair, is urging the middle class to become more vocal in calling for an end to right-wing economic policies that advance the out-of-touch interests of the super wealthy and exacerbate poverty.

The Huffington Post’s Dan Froomkin reports on Edelman’s comments at a recent event hosted by ACS and the Center for American Progress. Edelman (pictured) said a broader group of people should stand against Republican economic policies, calling the policies destructive. He also said the right-wing’s rhetoric advancing those policies is “just weird.” See video of the event here.

Froomkin noted that the former Bain Capital director Edward Conard has lauded the nation’s economic inequality, saying that more people should strive for the obnoxious sums of money he has earned. Conard in an interview with The New York Times offered little in the way of defense of economic policies that make his group even wealthier. Essentially risk-takers, like Conard should be celebrated, even though their work does little to nothing for the common good.

But Edelman, Froomkin says, provides “the exact opposite approach” in his new book, So Rich, So Poor. Edelman said the goal “should be to raise taxes on the rich and strengthen” the social safety net, Froomkin reports. That safety net, as Edelman intimately knows, has been tattered by years of economic policies advanced by the Right and accommodating Democrats.

At the event, Edelman also, as Froomkin reports, lamented middle class and lower-income voters who back support economic policies that have created a tattered social safety net. “Our concern” must be shared by all of the 99 percent, Edelman said.

In an ACS Book Talk regarding So Rich, So Poor, Edelman says the “bottom has dropped out of our safety net. This is the most urgent single problem we face.”

He notes what other economists, such as Stiglitz, have -- that the nation’s economy has grown, but all that growth has gone to the nation’s tiny group of super wealthy. “Let’s be clear that the economy didn’t get stuck,” Edelman said. “It grew, but all of the gains have gone to the people at the top.”

Edelman will participate in the opening plenary panel of the ACS 2012 Convention focusing on inequality’s threat to democracy.