It might surprise many to learn that business people all over America have joined the fight against economic inequality. Here are 10 notable, wealthy individuals who have advocated for ending tax cuts on the rich and increasing programs for the poor:
America’s education system is unequal and unfair. Students who live in wealthy communities have huge advantages that rig the system in their favor. They have more experienced teachers and a much lower student-teacher ratio. They have more modern facilities, more up-to-date computer and science equipment and more up-to-date textbooks. They have more elective courses, more music and art offerings and more extracurricular programs. They have better libraries, more guidance counselors and superior athletic facilities.
Not surprisingly, affluent students in well-off school districts have higher rates of high school graduation, college attendance and entry to the more selective colleges. This has little to do with intelligence or ability. For example, 82 percent of affluent students who had SAT scores over 1200 graduate from college. In contrast, only 44 percent of low-income students with the same high SAT scores graduate from college. This wide gap can’t be explained by differences in motivation or smarts.
Two and a half years after the Occupy Movement jolted the country, America is once again abuzz with talk about poverty and inequality. Of course, along with a heightened focus on the problem come lots of ideas for fixing it. Some are smart, others are not, but nearly all of them share one thing in common: They are complicated.
The status quo “solution” isn’t complicated – at least on paper. It’s the one proposed by former Reagan official Herbert Meyer, who, on his website The Cure for Poverty, offers a three-word remedy: the free market.
Meyer, who worked at the CIA, may have been too busy warding off the enemy to notice that market forces have enjoyed one of the most unfettered periods in recent American history, even as poverty and inequality have risen inexorably. But he is surely onto something with his one-step prescription.
So I have my own,
The conventional wisdom of capitalism is encapsulated in the phrase “trickle down.” This means the money that some very rich people have accumulated gets invested in ways that create jobs, and the money dribbles down the social pyramid, first to administrators, then white collar managers and bureaucrats, then to the assembly line or shop floor workers, then to the janitors. General Motors used to be the quintessential capitalist corporation. “What was good for General Motors,” it was believed during the Eisenhower years, “was good for the country.”
Then in the 1980s, an economist from USC sold Ronald Reagan on a re-constructed version of this model. He called it “supply side economics.” This notion claims that the more goods are available for people to buy, the more money will concentrate in the upper reaches of the rich, and somehow, this is good for the country. The Walton family heirs to the Walmart fortune are a good example of this business model.
If the coverage of last week’s two big winners offers a guide, the choice will be between “pragmatism” and “ideology.”
The Washington Post called Chris Christie’s huge gubernatorial victory a “clear signal in favor of pragmatic, as opposed to ideological, governance.”
But the mainstream media used a different adjective to describe Bill de Blasio, last week’s other landslide victor. The New York Times, for example, wrote of “the rise of the left-leaning Mr. de Blasio.”
Again and again, Christie is described as the pragmatist; De Blasio, the lefty.
But these appellations ignore what’s happening to an America in which almost all the economic gains are going to the richest 1 percent, median household incomes continues to drop and the number of Americans in poverty continues to rise.