Monday, September 16, 2013

A Tale of Two Americas

Joe Stiglitz: The People Who Break the Rules Have Raked in Huge Profits and Wealth and It's Sickening Our Politics
From economist Joseph Stiglitz speech to AFL-CIO:
We have become the advanced country with the highest level of inequality, with the greatest divide between the rich and the poor.  We use to pride ourselves--we were the country in which everyone was middle class.  Now that middle class is shrinking and suffering.  The central message of my book, The Price of Inequality, is that all of us, rich and poor, are footing the bill for this yawning gap.  And that this inequality is not inevitable.  It is not, as Rich said yesterday, like the weather, something that just happens to us. It is not the result of the laws of nature or the laws of economics. Rather, it is something that we create, by our policies, by what we do.  We created this inequality—chose it, really—with laws that weakened unions, that eroded our minimum wage to the lowest level, in real terms, since  the 1950s, with laws that allowed CEO's to take a bigger slice of the corporate pie, bankruptcy laws that put Wall Street's toxic innovations ahead of workers. We made it nearly impossible for student debt to be forgiven. We underinvested in education. We taxed gamblers in the stock market at lower rates than workers, and encouraged investment overseas rather than at home.Let us be clear:  our economy is not working the way a well working economy should.  We have vast unmet needs, but idle workers and machines.  We have bridges that need repair, roads and schools that need to be built.  We have students that need a twenty-first century education, but we are laying off teachers.  We have empty homes and homeless people.  We have rich banks that are not lending to our small businesses, but are instead using their wealth and ingenuity to manipulate markets, and exploit working people with predatory lending.

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