Why Income Inequality Suddenly Matters

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/11/11-5

by David Sirota
Published on Friday, November 11, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

A few weeks ago, as the Occupy Wall Street protests were first spreading, something amazing happened: For 10 whole seconds, the local reporter on my TV screen actually talked about the realities of the recession. He even uttered the phrase “economic inequality.”

My guess is that you’ve seen something similar on your local affiliate — and that’s no minor event. When even the most local of television journalists are compelled to acknowledge this crushing emergency in a country whose media aggressively promotes American Dream agitprop, it means the Occupy protestors have scored a monumental victory. You can almost imagine a Wall Street CEO turning to an aide and muttering a slightly altered riff off LBJ: “If we’ve lost Ron Burgundy, we’ve lost Middle America.”

In response to this stunning turn of events, conservative politicians are retreating to non sequiturs. They seem to think that if they shout the phrase “class warfare” enough, the nation will go back to not caring about the divide between the rich and poor.

But something has changed.

For most of the post-World War II era, we tolerated relatively high inequality because we envisioned it as a necessary side effect of an exceptional economy that (supposedly) guaranteed opportunities for advancement. As The Wall Street Journal put it, we believed that “it is OK to have ever-greater differences between rich and poor … as long as (our) children have a good chance of grasping the brass ring.”

However, the last three decades have invalidated our standing hypothesis. After the conservatives’ successful assault on the New Deal, America has lived a different reality — one perfectly summarized by a new Federal Reserve study revealing that today’s increasing inequality accompanies comparatively low social mobility.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/11/11-5

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