Investigative reporter Johnston (The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" to Rob You Blind, 2012, etc.) collects together writings from forty authors representing many different fields of endeavor to present a multifaceted picture of inequality.
Among the contributors are President Barack Obama, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, international trade unionists, and specialists from academia and the think-tank world—even Studs Terkel. The keynote of the collection is the president's Dec. 6, 2011, speech in Osawatomie, Kan., in which he argued that widening inequality contributed to the financial collapse in 2008. On that occasion, Obama struck a note of optimism about his reforms and their prospects for implementation. Johnston's introduction is quite a bit more pessimistic, as he notes that nearly 95 percent of all income gains between 2009 and 2012 went to the top 1 percent. The income of the “vast majority, the bottom 90 per cent,” shrank by 15.7 percent on average, to a level lower than it was in 1966. Other contributors fill out the picture and shape a timeline of the widening of the divisions. Warren's piece on the disappearing middle class was written in 2004. In 2007, Ehrenreich exposed Home Depot Chairman Robert Nardelli's monstrous 2007 golden parachute. A chapter by Donald S. Shepherd, Elizabeth Setren and Donna Cooper on how hunger increased in America during the recession by 30 percent appeared on Slate in 2012. Also documented: how income inequality constricts access to goods both public and private, like food, education and health care. Johnston includes an excerpt from Adam Smith's 1776 Wealth of Nations: “By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without.”
A potent chronicle of America’s “extreme inequality, the worst by far of any nation with a modern economy.”