Tuesday, July 22, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

New US mantra: ‘Inequality for all’

By
February 20, 2014 |

There were almost more sponsoring organizations for a recent screening of the unsettling documentary “Inequality for All” than students in the university auditorium where it played. Most in the audience were on the other side of middle age, which underscored a key point economist Robert Reich makes in the film: U.S. income inequality rose sharply in the late 1970s. The generation now in college has grown up with that as the norm.

But the empty seats also tempered Reich’s source of optimism: that things will change back when young people organize and demand different policies from their government. How can they imagine what they have never known, what some of us born in the 1950s took for granted: that laws, budgetary and taxation policies should be designed to equalize opportunities for people born into poverty, not expand the pockets of those at the top?

The numbers don’t lie. These were some shared on film by Reich and speakers at the Des Moines, Iowa, screening:

  • Incomes of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans rose by 275 percent in the 30 years that ended 2007. Those at the middle grew by 40 percent, and those at the lowest end by only 18 percent. The top 20 percent that year had a greater combined income than the other 80 percent.
  • The top marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans was 91 percent in the mid-’50s, but only 35 percent in 2010 – and inequality was lowest when top tax rates were highest.
  • During the 2009 recession, the top 1 percent lost 30 percent of their income, but gained back 31.4 percent. The bottom 99 percent lost 11.6 percent of theirs but have only gained back 0.4 percent.

These aren’t just partisan talking points reflecting “envy” or “class warfare,” as some politicians who support the status quo contend. They reflect shifting government priorities and changing rules, from workers’ rights to unionize to corporations’ ability to influence election outcomes. Beyond the immorality of America, with its immense wealth, ranking 64th in income equality, how can an economy like ours, 70 percent of which depends on consumer spending, survive without a thriving middle class? You might assume, as I did, that spending by the wealthiest makes up for that. But according to Reich, who has advised presidents of both parties, they invest their money, wherever it can get the highest returns, including abroad. The 400 Americans whose combined wealth is greater than that of 150 million Americans can only use so many cars, pillows and flat-screen TVs.

To those who argue that government should leave the “free market” alone, Reich responds, “There is no free market because government sets the rules.” And those rules, as Iowa State University Economics Professor Herman Quirmbach says, “should help the poor more than the rich.”

Social Security, for example, has dramatically helped the elderly poor. But the working poor, who help pay for it through payroll taxes, have fallen behind. The decline of unions that began when President Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers has played a big part. Unions helped keep wages and working conditions up. Only 11.3 percent of America’s workers are in unions today, compared with 35 percent in the mid-’50s, and attempts to unionize are vigorously fought.

Consider this anecdote. Dean Eckerman, 77, a Des Moines retiree, told of shopping last year at a Walmart, where he struck up a conversation with a stranger, first about sports and weather, then unions. “I asked his opinion of unions and what effect they might have on Walmart,” said Eckerman, who once belonged to a federal employees’ union. As he was checking out, he said two off-duty police officers and two store security officers arrived and told him to “stop talking to people and leave the store.” The stranger was in Walmart management.

There are many pieces to the growing inequality problem. Efforts to raise the minimum wage, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, fund child-care, preschool and college assistance or invest in job training could all help. But those issues get pushback from lobbyists for businesses and anti-tax groups, which help fund politicians’ campaigns. Under the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporations or labor unions have free speech rights to influence election outcomes. Yet perversely, if Eckerman’s story is true – a Walmart spokeswoman said she had no information on it – a citizen can’t even exercise his speech rights to talk to another person in a Walmart store.

Rekha Basu is a columnist for the Des Moines (Iowa) Register. Readers may send her email at rbasu@dmreg.com.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Weather for Tuesday, July 22, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page:

 
Library friends set spring book sale

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5

 
 
Carpenters training center set to expand in Fairfield

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

Man, woman, comic and dance contest primed for box office

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

 
Polk first to file for Fairfield council

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5

Rockville Trails hike on August calendar

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Governor signs 2 bills by Frazier into law

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5

 
Video chair exercise class returns to senior center

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

2 Vacaville homes hit by gunfire

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
.

US / World

Detroit retirees vote in favor of pension cuts

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Clinton: US, Europe should get tough on Russia

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 2 Comments

Gaza death toll rises as truce effort intensifies

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Israeli aircraft hit more than 70 targets in Gaza

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Rebels release train with bodies from downed jet

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Afghan vet who fought wounded gets Medal of Honor

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Hopkins pays $190M in pelvis exam pix settlement

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Ex-teacher convicted of pushing wife off cliff

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 1 Comment

 
Full-contact youth football practices restricted

By The Associated Press | From Page:

BART police enforce stretching ban at stations

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 1 Comment

 
 
Report: Retaliation by supervisors common at VA

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Law blocks some brown lawn fees during droughts

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 2 Comments

 
California won’t send troops to Mexican border

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 1 Comment

Murder charges filed in California bank robbery

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 1 Comment

 
Cause of deaths in FedEx truck-bus crash released

By The Associated Press | From Page:

California reduces deportations for minor crimes

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 1 Comment

 
Official: State can send inmates to medical site

By The Associated Press | From Page:

.

Opinion

 
Walmart donation benefits Meals on Wheels

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

Batson’s column on Mideast peace is wrong

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 3 Comments

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: July 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page:

 
.

Entertainment

Love and Manson guest on ‘Sons of Anarchy’

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
‘Fargo’ gets 2nd season on FX with new cast, crime

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Box office top 20: ‘Apes’ holds reign with $36.3M

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
TVGrid July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

.

Sports

Hugo Perez Elite Training Camp to be held in Vallejo

By Daily Republic staff | From Page:

 
Duvall, Kontos help Giants beat Phillies

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Lady Vols coach wants a stronger finishing touch

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Gail Goestenkors quits WNBA job, enters hoops hall

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Chamberlain’s arm and beard fitting in with Tigers

By The Associated Press | From Page:

This date in sports history for Tuesday, July 22, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Big 12 commish’s dire warning about pending change

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Big Papi passes Yaz with 453rd career home run

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Chargers bolt into camp with high hopes

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Broncos primed for another super run

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Seattle says what happened last season is history

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Tony Stewart riding high from sprint car victory

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Head of 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics resigns

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
6 South Americans refuse to return to Donetsk club

By The Associated Press | From Page:

BMC, Team-Garmin Sharp back for USA Pro Challenge

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Tour leader Nibali: A ‘flag-bearer’ against doping

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Witness: Sterling needs Clippers sale to pay debts

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Jeter turns small part of attention to business

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Raiders enter camp with ‘chip’ on shoulders

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

49ers start fresh after forgettable offseason

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Cain heads to DL with elbow injury

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Business

Microsoft makes design central to its future

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 1 Comment

 
Allergan to cut 1,500 employees in restructuring

By The Associated Press | From Page: , 1 Comment

.

Obituaries

Shirley T. ‘Mac’ McFadden

By Nancy Green | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
.

Comics

Zits july 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Garfield July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Bridge July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Blondie July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Cryptoquote July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Beetle Bailey July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baby Blues July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

B.C. July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Crossword July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Baldo July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

For Better or Worse July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sudoku July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Frank and Ernest July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Rose is Rose July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Word Sleuth July 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5