In his debut, New Republic columnist Noah takes on the political dimensions of the outrageous disparity in incomes that has developed since 1979.
This inequality, writes the author, is worse than it has been in any other period of American history, and it is completely out of line with America's trading partners and allies. Noah shows that this trend is not directly related to the usual political suspects—black-white disparity, the treatment of women, etc.—and their correlatives in the economy and employment, but is in a class by itself, a result of contextual developments broader than particular laws or taxes enacted by Congress. The author examines the research of Princeton and Vanderbilt public policy professor Larry Bartels, whose message in his 2008 book Unequal Democracy “boiled down to a bluntly partisan message. You don’t like income inequality? Then don’t vote Republican.” Noah discusses the rise and fall of the trade-union movement and demonstrates that turning points in that movement were also turning points in the growth of income inequality. While after the end of World War II it was normal for the president to sit down with labor and business officials to discuss the economy, it no longer is. The author indicates that when anti-labor legislation (e.g., the Taft-Hartley Act) was combined with corporate lobbying, the institutions underpinning ideas of what was acceptable where income was concerned were undermined. Noah also calls out financial deregulation as a major offender, and he lists measures that he believes can help the situation, such as soaking the rich (think higher taxes and fees for wealthy individuals), fattening government payrolls and attracting more skilled immigrants.
Essential background reading for the coming elections.