America’s Rising Income Inequality

Nicholas Kristof had an interesting column in the Times this morning.  In it, he outlined the increasing income inequality in the country, specifically noting how the earning power of the top 1% of the population now takes home 24% of the income in the nation (more unequal than Venezuela and Nicaragua).  And, more strikingly, of the income growth that’s occurred in this country since 1980, 80% of it has occurred for this top 1%.

Fast forward to the debate on the Bush tax cuts.  They were staggered so as to give the ultra rich the biggest benefit to begin with.  And now they’re set to expire at the end of the year.  In order for the tax cuts to remain in place, they have to be reauthorized by Congress, and now the GOP is maintaining that they’re not going to vote for them unless the millionaires get the tax cut that were originally included.  If we proceed with the GOP plan, that will add $700 billion to the deficit over the next decade.

If it weren’t so serious, I would find it hilarious that Republicans seem to forget about the deficit every time that they throw red meat to their base: the richest 1% of the country.  But when it comes to any social program that has a chance of helping ordinary working Americans, the first argument they tend to invoke is what kind of impact it’ll have on the deficit.  They can’t have it both ways, and I think that the President is setting the terms for his first significant showdown with a Republican House.

And I welcome that showdown.  I think that the most beneficial route the Democrats can pursue is to illustrate the differences between them and the Republicans.  That Democrats, not Republicans are the real guardians of fiscal sanity in the US.  Tax cuts, repeal of domestic, previously agreed upon legislation (the health care reform act) and making the defeat of the incumbent President do not make an effective policy for putting this country on a stable financial basis and helping your ordinary American cope with the challenges that we face today (jobs, education, healthcare).

Democrats ought to be madder than hell, and we ought to learn how to fight to the bitter, bitter end over Republican initiatives like this.  We have the truth on our side.  We’re right.  And, most importantly, we need to start acting like it.

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