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Income Inequality + The Age Of Inequality

Program #COLC003-STIJ004.

First program: Income Inequality

Income inequality has soared to the highest levels since the Great Depression. And the Great Recession has done little to reverse the trend. In the first full year of the so-called recovery, the top 1 percent of earners took 93 percent of the income gains. The IMF warns, “Some dismiss inequality and focus instead on overall growth, arguing, in effect, that a rising tide lifts all boats. When a handful of yachts become ocean liners while the rest remain lowly canoes, something is seriously amiss.” Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics says, “What worries me is the idea that we’re in a vicious cycle. Increasing inequality means a weaker economy, which means increasing inequality, which means a weaker economy.” Certainly the Occupy Movement raised consciousness about this issue. But the political class has done little to address it. What can be done?

Second program: The Age of Inequality

Trickle-down neo-liberal economics has not worked. Well, not exactly. It’s worked beautifully for the rich. U.S. income inequality has returned to levels not seen since the 1920s. The top 1% rakes in one-fourth of the national income and has assets equivalent to half the national wealth. The Age of Inequality began in earnest more than 30 years ago. Wages, which had been constantly rising, flattened out. Families got hooked on the new money: credit cards. Debt skyrocketed. Workers took second jobs to make ends meet. The huge transfer of wealth upwards was accompanied by attacks on unions. Recall Reagan’s first action was to break a union. Then corporations started outsourcing, moving high paying jobs overseas. Throw in tax cuts and subsidies and you have a poisonous economic cocktail for the average worker. Inequality poses serious questions about the nature of democracy, fairness and economic justice. 

Speaker(s):

Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins is co-founder of United for a Fair Economy, a Boston-based national organization that addresses issues of economic inequality. He is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and directs its Program on Inequality and the Common Good. He is author of Economic Apartheid in America, Wealth and Our Commonwealth and 99 to 1.

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