90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Inequality And American Democracy

A special forum on American democracy. American  inequality , and this country’s path ahead.

On Point host Tom Ashbrook leads the discussion at the Harvard Kennedy School's kickoff event for its Challenges to Democracy series on Thursday, October 3, 2013. Harvard's Alex Keyssar, Canadian journalist and Liberal Party candidate Chrystia Freeland and Princeton University's Martin Gilens joined Tom on stage. (WBUR)

On Point host Tom Ashbrook leads the discussion at the Harvard Kennedy School’s kickoff event for its Challenges to Democracy series on Thursday, October 3, 2013. Harvard’s Alex Keyssar, Canadian journalist and Liberal Party candidate Chrystia Freeland and Princeton University’s Martin Gilens joined Tom on stage. (WBUR)

Americans, in general, have a notably open attitude toward inequality.  A bunch of those big fortunes came from big innovation.  Big innovation has historically driven the American economy.  A lot of Americans hope to strike it big themselves one day.  But lately, American inequality has moved into territory so stark that it tests assumptions, even tests our democracy.  When the poor are poor, the middle class is falling, and the rich are running the table, driving so much politics, does democracy still work as it should?  Up next in a special edition of On Point:  Democracy and America’s new inequality.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Chrystia Freeland, Liberal Party Candidate for Canadian Parliament, journalist and author of “Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.” (@CaFreeland)

Martin Gilens, professor of Politics at Princeton University and author of “Affluence & Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America.”

Alex Keyssar, Matthew W. Stirling Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy.

From Tom’s Reading List

Slate: The United States Of Inequality – “Income inequality in the United States has not worsened steadily since 1915. It dropped a bit in the late teens, then started climbing again in the 1920s, reaching its peak just before the 1929 crash. The trend then reversed itself. Incomes started to become more equal in the 1930s and then became dramatically more equal in the 1940s.   Income distribution remained roughly stable through the postwar economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Economic historians Claudia Goldin and Robert Margo have termed this midcentury era the ‘Great Compression.’ The deep nostalgia for that period felt by the World War II generation—the era of Life magazine and the bowling league—reflects something more than mere sentimentality.”

Boston Review: What To Do About Inequality — “Before laying out the institutional argument in more detail, let’s step back and ask why we reflexively assume that tax-based redistribution is the best way to take on inequality. This assumption makes sense only insofar as the institutions that generate wages and other income are treated as sacrosanct. If such institutions are indeed given a free pass, our only opportunity for reducing inequality is to intervene after they operate. Hence we turn by default to taxation.”

White House Council Of Economic Advisers: Rock & Roll, Economics, and Rebuilding the Middle Class — “The music industry is a microcosm of what is happening in the U.S. economy at large. We are increasingly becoming a “winner-take-all economy,” a phenomenon that the music industry has long experienced. Over recent decades, technological change, globalization and an erosion of the institutions and practices that support shared prosperity in the U.S. have put the middle class under increasing stress. The lucky and the talented – and it is often hard to tell the difference – have been doing better and better, while the vast majority has struggled to keep up.”

Watch the Entire On Point Live Event

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Mar 27, 2015
Rescue workers work on debris of the Germanwings jet at the crash site near Seyne-les-Alpes, France, Thursday, March 26, 2015. The co-pilot of the Germanwings jet barricaded himself in the cockpit and “intentionally” rammed the plane full speed into the French Alps, ignoring the captain’s frantic pounding on the cockpit door and the screams of terror from passengers, a prosecutor said Thursday. (AP)

The co-pilot and the plane in the Alps? Ted Cruz announces 2016 bid. Heinz buys Kraft. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Mar 27, 2015
Members of  a November Project 'tribe' pause during a November 2014 workout. (Brogan Graham / Instagram)

Spring training. From easy-access yoga to outdoor exercise meet-ups, exercise plans you’ll want to do.

RECENT
SHOWS
Mar 26, 2015
A child walks through a forest landscape. (Rudolf Vlček / Flickr)

American kids today spend only four to seven minutes a day playing outdoors. We hear a new call to raise the “wild child.”

 
Mar 26, 2015
In this file photo, protesters sit at the intersection of Wall St. and Broad St. in New York, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. The protesters, many who were affiliated with Occupy Wall Street, were trying to draw attention to the connection between capitalism and environmental destruction. (AP)

In our age of hyper-inequality, historian Steve Fraser asks when the little guy stands up and says “enough.” He’s with us.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Mobile Payments Offer Convenience If You Keep Your Email Safe
Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Thinking about moving your wallet to your phone? You can! And maybe you should? But TechCrunch senior writer Josh Constine has a few things to tell you before you do.

More »
Comment
 
Using Technology To Get Your Kids Outside
Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

The latest and greatest — using apps to make natural exploration more fun for your kids.

More »
Comment
 
Week In The Web: March 20, 2015
Friday, Mar 20, 2015

The emailed comments question continues to haunt us, we shake off / salute our haters and CNN Politics spends way too much time on FinalCut (in a good way!).

More »
Comment