Magazine article Tikkun

Tom Weisskopf on Spreading the Wealth

Magazine article Tikkun

Tom Weisskopf on Spreading the Wealth

Article excerpt

YOUR CAMPAIGN FORTHE PRESIDENCYWAS INSPIRATIONAL TO MILLIONS OF AMERICANS BECAUSE YOU PROMISED to bring us back together again, after eight years of polarization under President Bush and his Republican juggernaut We yearn to beUeve that we are really one nation, committed to each other, rather than a couection of individuals each seeking to feather his or her own nest and to prevent others from encroaching on it

Nothing you can do as president will be as important as enabling Americans to restore our collective sense of community- our understanding that we are really all in it together.

To accomplish this, however, you will have to recognize and address a huge obstacle to rebuilding this sense of community: the enormous economic inequaUty that now characterizes the United States- greater than at any time since the late 1920s, and far greater than in any other wealthy industrialized nation.

During the past thirty years the share of income going to the richest 1 percent ofU.S. households has more than doubled-to almost 25 percent And household wealth is far more unequally distributed than household income: the wealthiest 1 percent enjoy an average level of wealtii almost 200 times as great as the median US. household- a rise of roughly 50 percent since die 1970s. These sharp increases in inequalities of income and wealth have not been mitigated by increased social or income mobility. On the contrary, US. intergenerational mobility decreased significantly over the last 25 years; our society now offers less social mobility than in any comparable nation.

Up to a point economic inequality can be economically beneficial. But we are way beyond the point where the beneficial effects of inequality outweigh its adverse effects, which become increasingly significant as the degree of inequality rises.

It is no accident that the Great Depression foDowed die spike in inequality ofthe 1920s, and it is no accident that die current economic crisis has come on the heels of huge increases in economic inequality over the past quarter-century. Sharply rising inequality leads to speculative excess and a variety of economic distortions, which will sooner or later undermine the vitality of die economy. Huge inequalities foster hugely unequal opportunities, thereby preventing society from tapping die latent potential ofthe less well-off; undermining die cooperation and trust essential to a well-functioning market economy; and increasing the costs of maintaining law, order, and public health. …

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