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.
  • 12Gary2

    tax the rich and spread the wealth

    • HonestDebate1

      That hurts everyone.

      • lawyermomma

        Are there any facts to back that up?

  • Matt MC

    I’m sure no one will talk about this, but why aren’t we thinking about creating a different system of economics? It’s not as if capitalism has existed since the dawn of time. It was a system particularly suited to a new industrial era where we actually made useful tools that improved our lives. Now we have to trick people into buying things they not only don’t need, but actually destroy their health and standard of living. On top of that, we keep finding ways to make human beings useless and our economy becomes more and more unstable as we progress, destroying our environment as we go. Why isn’t anyone out there thinking of a better system? Economics is not science! It’s the study of a particular human-constructed exchange system. People like Paul Krugman need to stop bitching about ways to tweak our current system. Figure out something better. They’re supposed to be the most brilliant minds of our generation, yet their most stunning revelations have to do with how much money the government should pump into a busted sewer pipe.

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      We are drifting (slowly) towards a new system of economics! This will include things like 3 dimensional printing, personal robotics, and machine intelligence that creates new knowledge. Too many of us are stuck in the 18th and 19th century. Matt, if your looking for a “back to the land” nirvana, then you need to consider hooking up with the Amish or some group like them, otherwise, forget it. We are where we are, because, all things considered, the “people of old”, didn’t want to live in a “natural state”, it was not the “simple and easy life” that has often been portrayed. We can do better and we will do better if we would just start being less combative about considering exotic ideas. This doesn’t mean we have to throw away our “daily bread”. Matt, I have tried from time to time to offer a different perspective on problems, sometimes with humor and sometimes with examples. People are quick to trash anything that did not come out of their own mouth ! It has become a pervasive phenomena in our country. There was a time when you could offer an idea in discussion and others would throw back a counterpoint or rebut with humor. Today, it is all “my way” or “your road-kill on the highway“. It’s a sickness !! Anytime you want to pass some ideas back and forth, I am in, BIG TIME !

      • HonestDebate1

        I like your optimism today.

        • Wm_James_from_Missouri

          It is interesting that I got down votes for offering to help someone with a problem. Proof of concept ?

      • Matt MC

        I appreciate your comments, but I thinking of something more like a new way to encourage exchange, rather than new products. I wasn’t trying to imply that things were perfect in the past, simply that capitalism is just a thing we agree upon as a society, so we could, in theory, find a different thing to agree upon. Thanks for the comments.

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      PS to Matt,

      Actually, capitalism HAS existed pretty much since the dawn of time. If I were an ‘early human’ that had worked to create a spear to hunt prey, I would try to get as much food ( return on my investment, ie., Return on Equity) from my spear as I could before I was forced to make a new spear. If we HAD to reinvent the wheel every time, we would all starve to death! That said, once well fed, we can now consider looking at new wheel designs.

      • Matt MC

        Except many societies shared all their resources freely with everyone in the tribe and the notion of personal property was not the same, so I’m not sure I completely agree with you here.

  • Yar

    Everything made by humans will eventually fail, every system of government, every building, every dam, every landfill, every ash pit, every power plant, every system that requires maintenance will fail. This includes our current model of food production, our transportation system, our medical system, our legal system. We do not understand sustainability, we ignore the prophets as we increase complexity in our world instead of returning to community.
    Wendell Berry is one who tells truth to power.
    Read this:
    http://www.kftc.org/blog/wendell-berrys-vision-strong-local-economy

    And watch this weekend on Bill Moyers.
    Show #239
    http://billmoyers.com/segment/wendell-berry-poet-prophet/

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      Ahh, Kansas, “Dust in the Wind”. A poetic and beautiful song but I fear it’s beauty lures us into an Old Testament type of mind-meld. I prefer to meditate on renewal and resurrection. This engine of faith is fueled with an energy content that will take us to the stars, in fact, I believe it will take us to the end of time and into the realm of the eternal.

      • Yar

        We are stars, at least the remains of them, dust in the wind, that too. We have the old Testament prophets in our body, Understanding the small leads to understanding of all. With 7 to the 27th atoms, we are a little of everything.

        • HonestDebate1

          We are not stars or dust. We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

          • Yar

            Thanks for making my point, we never left the garden.

  • HonestDebate1

    It seems to me this topic relies on assumptions to create the misleading impression inequity is a concern. It assumes the rich got what they have at the expense of the poor. It assumes greed. It assumes the solution is to punish the rich. It assumes people are chained to the station in life to which they were born. And it assumes the true measure of equality is cash.

    • J__o__h__n

      They got it at the expense of the middle class for the past few decades. Wages are at best flat. Profits and productivity are soaring. Someone reaped that.

      • HonestDebate1

        Did they hack the middle class’ bank accounts?

        • J__o__h__n

          They took it before it trickled down that far.

        • jimino

          Even worse. They hacked the whole economy.

    • nj_v2

      Your comments repeatedly demonstrate that you are utterly clueless of the fact that the the rules and structure of the system doesn’t favor those with power and money.

      • HonestDebate1

        Well if you have no cogent rebuttal then maybe I’ll just play your game.

        “…that the the rules…”!!!????

        You are utterly clueless.

        • HonestDebate1

          Meh, it’s not that satisfying to be you, But I do have to point out it always comes back to bite you when you play grammar cop.

        • nj_v2

          It’s a typo you pathetic little twit.

          • HonestDebate1

            No, it’s Karma.

    • OnPointComments

      You will never, ever convince the liberals who post comments that there is not a bucket of money somewhere, and that the rich got there first and took more than their “fair share” leaving less for everyone else. It’s one of their most cherished false memes.

      • nj_v2

        It’s obvious, but i just wanted to point out that your posts are especially stupid today.

      • HonestDebate1

        I know, I just like being called names. I also have a wee bit of confidence someone may notice my premise is never ever ever rebutted.

  • William

    Is it fair for a talented actor or musician to receive millions while a less talented one to starve? Should we not cap the income of the best, most talented people in society to ensure we are all equal?

    • Coastghost

      But were we to follow this course, Bruce Springsteen would not be worth approximately as much as Mitt Romney is, viz., c. $210 million. The careers of many other populist multi-millionaires similarly could be imperiled.

    • HonestDebate1

      In my opinion, talent has little to do with a successful career as a musician.

      • OrangeGina

        True. Connections count. Gary Lewis and the Playboys were popular in the 60s mostly because Gary was the son of Jerry Lewis. Jerry used his connections to wrangle his kid into the business. Gary was not a strong singer, and every trick in the studio production book was used to enhance his voice. The Playboys were usurped by the the professional musicians known as the “Wrecking Crew”, to ensure their records were “hits”.

        • Coastghost

          Plus, Leon Russell handled their arrangements.

        • HonestDebate1

          That’s true and I don’t dismiss it but connections cannot make you connect with the audience. They just give you the opportunity to do so. I’ve actually shared the bill with Gary Lewis and the Playboys and can say he put on a good show.

          Percy Sledge told me that he thinks the 3 main ingredients are #1 personality, then great songs and cool clothes. We always wore tuxes when backing him.

          But I think the main thing is just being a pro which entails understanding your weaknesses, knowing your role, being confident without being arrogant and the ability to come through under pressure.

          Passion is also key, it’s contagious.

          I could go on and on but I won’t. Suffice to say I know many very talented musicians who can’t make a living playing music.

          • jefe68

            At least they can play real music.

          • HonestDebate1

            I am not the arbiter of what is real music.

      • tbphkm33

        I agree, in crony capitalism it is less about your talent or skills and much more about who you know and what ass you are kissing up to.

        • HonestDebate1

          Not so much.

      • William

        Perhaps, sometimes hard work pays off for musicians, but then again, Elvis had great talent and same with Ray Charles…they were just born that way….

        • HonestDebate1

          But they worked hard as well, that’s where the passion comes in.

  • Coastghost

    Truth in advertising: is this show properly about “American inequality” or is it not about “Ivy League guilt”?
    Each of the four personages on the dais in the photo at the top of this page works for or has attended an Ivy League school. Arguably, not one of them believes in too thoroughgoing a notion of “equality”, insofar as not one represents schools as far-flung and academically rigorous as South Carolina State University, Morehead State University, DeVry Institute of Technology, or Portland State University.
    No: the moderator and panelists represent only the Northeastern overclass (the “Harvard-to-DC Corridor”, we can call it) so adept at managing America in terms of law and governance, business and finance, journalism and mass communications. We who live in the provinces can only consider ourselves privileged to be permitted to listen in on what our betters tell us we should be thinking.

    • OrangeGina

      Well, those Harvard folks are at least acknowledging there is a problem and encouraging the conversation. On the other hand they are demonstrating the issue at hand, that is: those with the gold make the rules (and can direct the discussion)

      Classify your votes however you want, it’s just the Internet not American Idol

      • Coastghost

        As you may choose to equate lip-service with substantive debate: the forum being featured in this hour looks to my eyes and sounds to my ears very much like a closed loop. I don’t consider I’m being spoken with or even spoken to, so much as I’m being spoken AT.

  • John Cedar

    There was a time when christian inspired morality dominated the meaning of word “inequality” and it meant a bad thing. It meant to treat people as unequal. As Obama’s bigoted, Latino, SCOTUS appointee, treated people unequally in her rulings and utterances.

    But today the word inequality has come to mean “everyone doesn’t get the same amount of new “stuff” every year”. The simpleton liberals are not even bright enough to talk about asset inequality rather than income inequality.

    And these spoiled brat, “I want what he has” liberals are oblivious to what they DO HAVE. No doubt a poor person in 2013′s America has it better than a middle class or upper middle class family from 1940′s America.

    And how do they argue this fake argument? By using the ridiculous concept of the Gini coefficient. The millionaires on Lake Tahoe do not earn as much as the billionaires….boo hoo boo hoo hoo

    “The hon. Gentleman is saying that he would rather that the poor were poorer, provided that the rich were less rich. That way one will never create the wealth for better social services, as we have… That is the Liberal policy.”

    • Shag_Wevera

      Please go away.

      • John Cedar

        I will…
        eventually

    • J__o__h__n

      A poor person today is better off than the king of the cavemen so no further help is needed.

      • John Cedar

        Sounds like you almost understand.
        You needed to take your argument to the extreme to have any point at all.

    • jefe68

      You are one poor excuse for a human being.

      • John Cedar

        I am your God.

        • jefe68

          Well, you’re an angry one.
          No sacrificial virgins for you!

    • nj_v2

      You really are an idiot. And so are the people who “liked” your vacuous blather.

      • John Cedar

        and I am a big fat meany pants too.

    • jimino

      Yes, anyone with a flush toilet is better off than the Pharaohs of bygone Egypt. On the other hand, they will have to settle for an unmarked grave instead of a pyramid.

      • John Cedar

        Randolph Duke: [chuckling, patting Billy Ray on the back] I told you he’d understand.

        Woe is he who must settle for an unmarked grave instead of a pyramid.

  • J__o__h__n

    While I’m glad that I went to this last night, now I have to find something to listen to from 11:00 to 12:00.

  • TomK_in_Boston

    3 word summary of soaring inequality in USA:

    Reaganomics is working.

    • William

      “War on Poverty”. it’s more accurate.

  • HLB

    Thank goodness Global Heating is coming. It’ll be the great equalizer.

    “Want more sewer sauce with your Chateaubraind, Mr. Fuld?”
    “Fresh water? I’m sorry, Mr. Dimon: we’re fresh out.”
    “Secret service protection, Mr. President? Goodness, that was abandoned years ago.”
    “Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper? It disappeared in the last great avalanche.”

    Mother Nature: I sure wish I could buy her war bonds.

    Thanks much. Registered professional engineer {electric power}

  • HLB

    More immigrants to the USA? Oh, that will really fix this problem.

    Thanks much. Reality dweller

  • 228929292AABBB

    Thank goodness On Point is finally willing to do a show on inequality and American Democracy, I was afraid some other topics were going to be covered for the first time in the last month.

    • StilllHere

      It’s been almost three days since Tom droned on about this topic.

      • MordecaiCarroll

        Then don’t listen. Your mind is obviously made up on the subject anyway

  • Jim

    No, there is very little social democracy in this country. if you do not bend the rule, you will be left behind. i will borrow a line from Wall Street. you are either looking on the inside or outside. well, pal… i intend to stay on the inside.

  • Coastghost

    HARVARD is conducting a two-year investigation into “equality”? That’s a long spell to keep laughing . . .

  • OnPointComments

    Any time OnPoint discusses inequality, it’s an argument for equality of outcome regardless of effort, not equality of opportunity.

    • nj_v2

      Utterly bogus.

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    How is it that one can argue that it is fair that income taken as capital gains be taxed at half the rate that Ralph the roofer pays on wages earned pounding nails into shingles in July, or Nancy the nurse pays on wages earned caring for the sick in 12 hour shifts?

    How much of a factor has the 50% cut in capital gain tax factored into inequality and driving the corporate squeeze on wages and benefits?

    • OnPointComments

      Because Ralph and Nancy pay the same rate on capital gains as any other person.

      • OrangeGina

        strawman. Obviously the point being made is that these are both legitimate sources of income, but your typical roofer or nurse doesn’t have gobs of capital gains. Income is income, make the taxation more equitable.

        • OnPointComments

          Would you extend your “income is income” argument to having everyone pay the same rate on all income?

          • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

            Sure, lets starve the poor even more and rid ourselves of excess population
            that doesn’t have enough money to adequately participate in the consumer economy as a hard working patriot. Isn’t that’s the New Christian ethic for you?
            Animosity is the new compassion.

          • jimino

            Sure. 15.3% of the gross along with a flat income tax on the net.

          • pete18

            Double taxation, there’s a idea every liberal can get behind.

          • jimino

            That is how every wage earner is taxed, up to $106,000, and the issue was uniformity for all taxpayers.. Are you really that uninformed on the subject?

          • pete18

            Every wage earner is taxed on the adjusted gross income, not the gross and then the net.

    • Coastghost

      How much of a factor has the relative tax exemption of internet commerce been in permitting the likes of Jeff Bezos to acquire the likes of WaPo?

  • Frederick Lynch

    As long as there is tribalism (paranoia and racism) and “I want to
    control you” (religion and politics) and uncontrolled greed at the
    expense of others (yuppies, apparent current corporate dogma, et al.),
    there will be inequality. Look at human history, it’s been there all
    the time. The politicians, hate mongers, ad agencies, religions, all
    serve you the same grand excuse for the same reason – money and control.
    Inequality
    is in your head, you either believe what you’re told or you don’t.
    After that, it’s your goals and your level of commitment, i.e., how lazy
    you are, that puts you where you are.
    Do what’s right, not what’s
    convenient or expeditious! Are you the problem? Do you say “…look at
    that dirty [enter ethnicity], send them back to where they belong or
    better yet, let’s put them in the ghettos and we’ll make them work for
    slave wages…” or “…if I give this guy [enter scheme], I’ll be rich
    tomorrow…”?

    Wealth distribution isn’t the answer, equal opportunity is and that’s where it’s all gone to hell for all the above reasons.
    Take
    responsibility for yourself, make your decisions based on provable
    facts. If you want a change (liberal), make change happen. If you want
    to retain the status qua (conservative) don’t.

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Liberal elites talking about the 99%.

    Always good for a few chuckles.

    • jimino

      I tend to agree. Only topped, however, by some poor schlub stumping for the 1% at his own expense.

      • GuestAug27

        Yep, those shlubs used to be called Reagan Democrats.

  • Mari McAvenia

    Rich people “recovered” from the economic crash so rapidly because they never lost anything, in reality. The term “economic recovery” is a misnomer for everyone else. We are still in the tank treading water while the super-rich get super-duper rich on our very real hardships.

  • SteveTheTeacher

    Is there any doubt regarding the defacto plutocratic nature of the US political structure.

    By its nature, the capitalist system is anti-meritocratic. While there will always be outliers and exceptions, capitalism promotes the accumulation of more wealth by those with more resources – be they capital, temporal, of social. The structure of the US electoral system as well as a the property favoring nature of US policy/practice ensures that those with greater wealth have greater political influence. As a result of the social friction created from increasing levels of inequality and the environmental disruption from excess consumers, the US political-economic system is unsustainable.

    When will there be a more widespread discussion of the pros and cons of economic systems such as models of fair trade, participatory economics, Human Scale Development, green/sustainable economics, Mondragon style cooperative economics, democratic socialism, etc?

    • Isernia

      Personally discouraging to me who taught high school seniors about comparative economic and political systems many years ago that so few now middle-aged (even old) former students have entered into public discourse on democratic socialism, labor unions as a counterforce to unrestrained capitalism, political ideologies, etc…..lessons lost on the generations “out to make IT….(money, power, success, I suppose.

  • OnPointComments

    My prediction: at some point in this program, someone will argue that the solution to income inequality is to make the rich poorer instead of making the poor richer.

    • nj_v2

      My prediction: OnPointBogusCommmets will continue to act as a clueless shill, posting red-herring nonsense and other forms of vacuous prattle.

      • StilllHere

        When it comes to prattle, you are untouchable.

      • jefe68

        That’s all they can muster. This inane prattle of the regressive right is nothing but incessant diatribes, false equivalencies, red herrings, and memes. That is the architecture of their vacuous prattle. It’s nothing but a house of cards, but the real issue here is that they are ready to take the rest of the nation down with them.

      • TJPhoto40

        How about presenting your own persuasive argument with backing instead of simply assaulting someone else? Marshall the evidence to counter what you disagree with. What you’re doing is the truly “bogus”.

    • StilllHere

      Guaranteed. This is why this program exists.

  • nj_v2

    All well and good, but no amount of individual good deeds and lifestyle changes are going to change the political/social/economic water we all swim in.

    The problems are structural and institutional. The rules of the game and those who make them need to be the target of sustained, organized effort to change the infrastructure of the system.

    Without that, good deeds amount to so much pissing in the wind.

  • BlueMarkinRedTennessee

    In other words, the government of the democracy is the only one under which the power that votes the taxes escapes the payment of them.― Alexis de Tocqueville

  • James Patrick Dwyer Jr.

    You will never have a representative government until you get the money out of it. There has to be public funding.

  • nj_v2

    Damn, a program on “inequality,” and we have a bunch of mostly male, middle-aged, somewhat privileged white folks on the panel talking in a venue which is a symbol of wealth and privilege.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

  • AC

    maybe i’m being naive; politics and law are by no means my forte, but maybe we can look at this shut down as a perk that shows an obvious flaw to democracy and adjust the laws moving forward?

    • andic_epipedon

      If it were only that easy. I wish more people were as insightful as you.

  • Mari McAvenia

    Big projects need CHEAP LABOR, which is the equivalent of “big capital”.

  • Dale_in_RI

    Inequality is a symptom. The root cause is the ability to buy power and influence (especially political) which allows the rich to ensure that the system stays rigged in their favor. An even more insidious result is that your future is largely determined by where you start (financially).

  • ToyYoda

    Fantastic show. Please do more live shows.

    Might I suggest a show on DIY community (do it yourself). It would be hard to air, but your live audience might be entertained by the gadgets. Look to the Maker Faire in NYC.

    Also do more shows on Boston University campus.

  • Adrian_from_RI

    I am pleased to hear that Tom and his distinguished post modern progressive guests agree about the basic definition of democracy.

    Democracy is two wolves and a sheep going for lunch and voting whom to have for lunch (at the Harvard Faculty Club). But look on the bright side, the sheep got to vote and got what he deserved. This country’s path ahead is truly bright.

    • MsAbila

      Unfortunately, the average person does not have representation in the govn’t.

  • MsAbila

    Good advice to everyone. The main problem of our society is apathy and the unwillingness of helping others.

  • OnPointComments

    Is income inequality in America enduring and pervasive? No, it’s not.

    Most people who were in the bottom 20% of earners in 1987 moved up during the next 20 years. 55% of them had moved to a higher quintile, including 18% of them in the top 20% of income earners, 9% of them in the top 10%, and 3% of them in the top 1% of income earners. More than half of them were better off, and some were much, much better off twenty years later.

    How did the top 20% of income earners in 1987 fare twenty years later? More than half of them had fallen out of the top 20%. Of those in the top 10% of income earners in 1987, 62% of them weren’t in the top 10% in 2007.

    The person who has low income this year may be in the top 1% twenty years later. The top tier isn’t the same people year after year, and the bottom tiers aren’t the same people year after year either. There is the opportunity to move from the bottom 20% to the top 20%.

  • GuestAug27

    Let’s stop beating around the bushes. The only reason why the wealthy (the capitalists) in the so-called western democracies ever paid their workers a single penny more than what is absolutely necessary to acquire food and shelter was fear of something. That fear started around 1917 (Bolshevik Revolution in Russia) and ended in 1991 (the dissolution of the USSR). That something was Communism.

    Yes, even capitalism performs much better when it has some competition. Or, alternatively, when the capitalists have a big stick over their heads as demonstrated, for example, in China by the Communist Party politburo backed by the People’s Liberation Army.

    • andic_epipedon

      You have an interesting point worth examining.

    • ExcellentNews

      So true. Today, our oligarchs are in bed with theirs. And the only competition is to see who makes it to the Forbes global billionaire list.

  • Questions

    One point that boggles my mind about income inequality inUS is the apparent apathy of the bottom 99% many seems to have…when we hear the latest reports of the top1% taking all the profits-where is the outrage? I think many Americans have been cocooned from the reality of just how severe the disparity is. Media is partly to blame- at any other time in history this would be juicy fare for exposing the lifestyles of the super wealthy and just how much of the pie they take. But we never see it- the super wealthy are shielded from everyday America. We can’t know their extreme wealth unless we are their servants. With hiddened assets and far away vacation homes they camiflage their wealth in little ways …and I laughed when the guests were talking about how it’s no longer in vogue for the super wealthy to display their wealth- they know they need to hide it because it is grotesque. A super rich woman I know buys her shoes at Payless! And wears they like status symbols that proves she is just “one of us”.

    • StilllHere

      Maybe there’s no outrage because the inequality is some liberal media invention and not real.

      • John Cedar

        Maybe there is no outrage because (relatively speaking) EVERYONE has it so good?

  • Hopeglory

    My question is: Have we entered the age of the “end of upward mobility?”

  • Sy2502

    Democracy has very little to do with economic equality. Democracy deals with political equality, one person one vote. Now, as we all know, American politics are set up so that lobbies and special interests can weight more than the average citizen on political life thanks to political contributions. That’s really the problem with Democracy in our country. People who insist that Democracy is supposed to mean economic equality don’t really understand the concept of Democracy very well.

    • Jim

      you are contradicting yourself. try to read what you wrote. if you want to advocate political inequality which i am, at least try to do a better job.

      • Sy2502

        Your assertion that I am contradicting myself is useless unless you prove it. Point out the supposed contradiction, or are you to lazy to do so?

        • Guest

          Are you a fake conservative like Tom Friedman and John Boehner?

          • Sy2502

            What does that question even mean?

    • GuestAug27

      We don’t have a democracy, and for a good reason. In a democracy, the mob (the majority) would vote for those who would end inequality by taking away from the hard-working, productive members of the society (from the 1%).

      Thank God, we have a republic, not some silly mob rule.

  • andic_epipedon

    While half of our population does sit in front of the boob tube I disagree that the poor are the ones that are doing this. It is the wealthy that do this.

    After spending my resources on school and having a successful career the 2008 recession damaged my industry severely. I now sell televisions and I can tell you that the people spending their most on televisions are not the ones that are poor.

  • andic_epipedon

    How do we train people for the jobs of the future when we don’t even know what they are? As it stands, people are being encouraged into the tech industry, but there are two problems with this. If everyone got tech jobs there wouldn’t be enough jobs to go around. Also, not everyone is naturally cut out for tech jobs. Are we going to force people to do something they are not good at?

  • andic_epipedon

    Tom. Excellent show.

  • OldVet

    Excellent show. There was one cul de sac you ran into in the “what to do” area, that I would frame differently.

    Yes, the press is key…. but press funding has been collapsed by Google’s intensional advertising invalidating the banner advertising model… and its broad funding. Advertising, which used to be the funding of the press is now very targeted and no longer provides that function. Thus reporters are furloughed, and publishers do not have the financial muscle to push back when power oversteps it s bounds.

    Only a peoples press, led by coops that cannot be co-opted, like the guardian, can save democracy. In media, as in politics, “You dance with the one who brung ya.” An ethic of a reader funded press is essential if we are going to be informed well enough to navigate out of our commercial house of mirrors.

    One is either a consumer, or a citizen. A citizen must pay to have his dog in the information fight, by funding a coop press… that can press, and press to get the citizen’s concerns resolved.

  • OldVet

    Once we have a functional press, then we can focus on understanding the economic revolution we have already undergone. Robots work better and cheaper than people.
    Look at your Toyota, ipod, or monitor; all made by robots.

    Now we must think how to make this awareness a good thing…. or we will quite literally go to hell. For a start 15 hour work week, and a cultural focus on “the Good Life” as the ancient Greek philosophers spoke of…. and life can be indeed good. From that perspective we can see how very commercial our ‘vision’ has become.

    We have enough. But if we cannot share, there will Never be enough.

ONPOINT
TODAY
Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

RECENT
SHOWS
Aug 29, 2014
Beyoncé performs at the 2014 MTV Music Video Awards on Sunday, August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Getty)

Sex, power and Beyoncé’s feminism. The message to young women.

 
Aug 29, 2014
Ukrainian forces guard a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the nation's security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday, declaring that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine," as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.  (AP)

War moves over Syria, Ukraine. Burger King moves to Canada. Nine-year-olds and Uzis. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

More »
Comment
 
Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »
Comment
 
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

More »
1 Comment