Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Occupy Wall Street transforming public opinion?

Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration, writes in Salon that Occupy Wall Street has transformed public opinion in America, with - for the first time since the Great Depression - a majority of us favoring wealth redistribution.

An excerpt:
Not since the 1930s has a majority of Americans called for redistribution of income or wealth. But according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, an astounding 66 percent of Americans said the nation’s wealth should be more evenly distributed.

A similar majority believes the rich should pay more in taxes. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, even a majority of people who describe themselves as Republicans believe taxes should be increased on the rich.

I remember the days when even raising the subject of inequality made you a “class warrior.” Now, it seems, most Americans have become class warriors.

And they blame Republicans for stacking the deck in favor of the rich. On that New York Times/CBS News poll, 69 percent of respondents said Republican policies favor the rich (28 percent said the same of Obama’s policies). ...

A profound change has come over America. Guts, gumption, and hard work don’t seem to pay off as they once did – or at least as they did in our national morality play. Instead, the game seems rigged in favor of people who are already rich and powerful – as well as their children. ...

The old view was also that great wealth trickled downward – that the rich made investments in jobs and growth that benefitted all of us. So even if we doubted we’d be wealthy, we still gained from the fortunes made by a few.

But that view, too, has lost its sheen. Nothing has trickled down. The rich have become far richer over the last three decades but the rest of us haven’t. In fact, median incomes are dropping.

Wall Street moguls are doing better than ever – after having been bailed out by the rest of us. But the rest of us are doing worse. CEOs are hauling in more than 300 times the pay of average workers (up from 40 times the pay only three decades ago), as average workers lose jobs, wages, and benefits.

Instead of investing in jobs and growth, the super rich are putting their money into gold or Treasury bills, or investing it in Brazil or South Asia or anywhere else it can reap the highest return.

Meanwhile, it’s dawning on Americans that in the real economy (as opposed to the financial one) our spending is vital. And without enough jobs or wages, that spending is drying up.

Well, a lot of this is quite true. But, "I remember the days when even raising the subject of inequality made you a class warrior"? Um, like today, at least according to Fox "News" and pretty much the entire Republican Party?

And although 66% of Americans might think that "the nation's wealth should be more evenly distributed," that doesn't necessarily mean they favor income or wealth redistribution - especially not, I suspect, if you use that exact phrase.

I don't know. I'd really like to believe this, and that's exactly why I need to remain skeptical. I hope this is true, but I'm not entirely convinced that it is.

Besides, even if 69% of Americans know that Republican policies favor the rich, never discount the ability of the Democrats to blow an advantage. Remember last fall, when Congressional Democrats wouldn't even separate tax cuts for the rich from tax cuts for everyone else, in order to capitalize on just this political advantage?

Yeah, they're that inept.

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