Northwest Bronx
for Change

Concerned Citizens for Change is a grassroots organization working to advance progressive issues at the city, state and federal levels.  

​​ ​Economic Inequality

It takes money to make money.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

These two old, common sense sayings demonstrate that people have been aware that income inequality is a fact of economic life for a long time. Societies have choices in how to deal with this reality. They can ignore it in which case inequality will grow. They can decide that each citizen should be guaranteed a minimum standard of living and create ways that wealth is redistributed so that the most harmful effects of inequality are mitigated.

America has chosen different path—accelerating this process---actively structuring society so as much wealth as possible is siphoned off from the poor and middle class to the wealthy. This began at the tail end of the Nixon Administration when big business decided that they needed to develop political power to protect their interests. They got organized and corporate political power grew exponentially over the years.
Here are some, but not all, of the ways our government has helped what FDR called organized money become wealthier at the expense of the rest of us---

--weakening financial regulations and and lessening enforcement of those on the books

--bailing out our biggest banks during the recession, with no strings attached, while failing to help ordinary families

--cutting funding for schools

--burdening our young with billions of dollars in student loan debt

--all sorts of subsidies for giant corporations

--cutting funds for building infrastructure

--weakening unions

---failing to enforce rules which protect workers

---ignoring requirements to pay overtime

---allowing workers to be reclassified as independent contractors with no rights

---entering trade deals which outsourced jobs abroad

---allowing the wealthiest and giant corporations to pay lower taxes than most Americans, or even no taxes at all

The richest 1% is now wealthier than the rest of humanity combined. 

The international humanitarian aid organization, Oxfam, recently reported on a study that showed only 62 individuals have the same wealth as the bottom half 3.5 billion people in our planet.  Furthermore, the wealth of the most affluent rose 44% since 2010, amid a world financial crisis, to $1.76 trillion, while the wealth of the bottom half fell 41% or just over $1 trillion.

There are some great books which have been written about how we got here and what we can do about it. Take a look.

All of this did not come about by accident. Money got organized. Lewis Powell, who later was named to the Supreme Court, was a leader in this movement. He said, “Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of year, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in political power available only through united action and national organizations.” You can read about it in a wonderful book, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson called Winner-Take-All-Politics.

For  years the voices warning about growing economic inequality were ignored by the media. Its existence was actually questioned. Then Occupy Wall Street changed that. Those voices began to be heard. Finally, Thomas Piketty made it impossible to continue to deny that economic inequality was a problem when he published his book Capital in the Twenty First Century. He proved that “the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth—today threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values.” In other words, those old sayings are spot-on.
Economic inequality isn’t just unfair. It harms a society and individuals in so many ways. They  are laid out in another wonderful book by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett called The Spirit Level. The book demonstrates that more equal societies are healthier societies. Poor health, lack of educational attainment, violence, lack of community life, teen pregnancy, mental illness. obesity, shorter life spans, and a larger prison population are all related to income inequality.

Wilkenson and Pickett show that income inequality creates anxiety and depression. Stress and insecurity in a population lead to a dysfunctional society.  Wilkenson and Pickett say, “We maintain social status by showing superiority to those below. Those deprived of status try to regain it by taking it out on more vulnerable people below them.” This behavior in non-human primates has been called” the bicycling reaction.” Think of the posture of a bicycle racer—head down in deference to superiors—kicking down on inferiors. This really explains Donald Trump’s success, doesn’t it. It also explains how the Republican Party has been able to get middle class people to support them even though the party’s policies favor the rich at their expense. Don’t pay attention to those who are sucking up all the money in the system.  Income inequality leaves a society vulnerable to a demagogue.    

The economy has been rigged to benefit organized money at the expense of most of us. Read Robert Reich's excellent new book, Saving Capitalism For Tthe Many, Not the Few, If you want to understand how stacked the deck is.   It is quite an eye-opener.
Before you leave this page take a minute to watch this video which Demos and MoveOn have teamed up to make. It explains how racism has been used to sell the policies which are increasing income inequality in America today. Racism protects those who have engineered economic inequality:

We Must Talk About Race To Fix Economic Inequality