In the fall of 2011, millions of Americans were drawn to a movement directly challenging dramatically rising income inequality. The Occupy Movement dominated public discourse and put economic unfairness at the center of policy debates. Yet only two years after Occupy began on Wall Street, efforts to redress still worsening income inequality have stalled. The national grassroots campaign to get House Republicans to enact immigration reform has not been matched by similar efforts to raise the minimum wage or end corporate tax loopholes, with advocacy for such policies no stronger today than before Occupy’s emergence. We even face the prospect of President Obama selecting Lawrence Summers, a longtime backer of the One Percent, as the new head of the Federal Reserve. Are activists preoccupied with other issues, or have people decided that challenging the power of the One Percent is not a winnable political fight?
This past weekend I came across two documentaries about dramatic wealth inequality in the United States: Alex Gibney’s November 2012,
In his recent defense of Larry Summers President Obama appeared to be badly confused about the state of the economy. This apparently leads him to believe that the country should be grateful to Larry Summers for his successes, as opposed to furious at him for his failures.
Obama’s story is that the economy was in a free fall when he took office and the program that was in large part designed by Summers helped turn it around. While it is true that the economy was in free fall, there was no reason to expect that to continue regardless of what policies were pursued. Note that in every single wealthy country the sharp drop in output at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was stopped and reversed by the end of the year. Other countries were not able to rely on the genius of Larry Summers in setting their policies.