The director of economic policy at the Center for American Progress argues that it is time to mount a political challenge to the economic theories—namely, supply-side, or trickle-down economics—that have provided cover for the unparalleled growth in inequality over the past three decades.
Madland states that the theory “has failed in a number of ways and is thus vulnerable to a challenge from the middle out.” Among the failures are the destructive consequences of growing income inequality, responsibility for the 2007-2009 “Great Recession,” and dramatic income-based undermining of opportunities and outcomes in American secondary and college education. As a senior member of the progressive Center for American Progress, Madland takes on the right wing's purblind opposition to raising taxes for expenditures on public goods such as education, which increase cultural and economic potentials in all areas by improving what the author calls “human capital.” College graduation rates, he writes, “have barely budged in over a generation,” and upward mobility is in decline. Furthermore, students from wealthy backgrounds continue to have significant access advantages over their poorer counterparts. “The average income for parents of Harvard students is now $450,000,” writes Madland. As inequality grows, the author shows how power shifts to the wealthy, politics becomes more polarized, and civic engagement suffers. The mad pursuit of profit and advantage—e.g., Wall Street banks insisting on deregulation, which contributed to the crash—and demanding no-strings-attached bailouts eliminate the trust and reciprocity that Madland promotes as a necessary accompaniment to a strong middle class. He believes American democracy “has proven resilient” but is not immune “to wealthy elites gaining disproportionate influence.” As the author notes, such elites, devoted to the theory of supply-side economics, don't readily change their ways.
A dramatic and clearly delineated outline of “how the stage has been set for transformative political conflict.”