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Robert Reich: Inequality Is Real, Personal, Expensive And It Was Created

Today, 1% of Americans are taking home nearly 20 percent of the country's total income, and own more than 35% of America's wealth.

Inequality is real, it's personal, it's expensive and it was created. Today, 1% of Americans are taking home nearly 20% of the country's total income and own nearly 35% of the country's wealth. This didn't happen by accident. As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains, we allowed it to happen.

We can't have a prosperous economy without a strong and prosperous middle class. Inequality can be fixed. So, let's fix it., a new interactive site from the Economic Policy Institute, explains the causes of and solutions to income inequality.


The recent past has seen greater economic inequality in America than at any time since the Great Depression.

In the three decades after World War II American incomes grew quickly and equally, but starting in the late 1970s things began to change.

Today, 1% of Americans are taking home nearly 20 percent of the country's total income, and own more than 35% of America's wealth.

And it didn't happen by accident. It's the result of policy decisions on taxes, education, trade, labor, macroeconomics, and financial regulation -- all of which shifted economic power away from low and moderate-income American families.

Economic inequality is real, it's personal, it's expensive. And it was created.

Since the 1960s, tax rates on very high incomes have been slashed dramatically, starving public investments in schools and roads and everything else needed to build our economy, and providing ever-greater incentives to rig the economy's rules to send more money to the top

The laws we've created to govern globalization have protected corporate interests, but done nothing for American workers.

Instead, we've allowed worker's rights to be systematically dismantled, both here and abroad.

Policymakers also began using high unemployment -- which hurts everybody, but especially low and middle-wage workers -- to protect the wealthy from any hint of inflation.

And, then, corporate interests pushed to abandon safeguards preventing the financial sector from making risky bets, which had to be backstopped by American taxpayers when those bets went sour -- a protection not given America's underwater homeowners.

All of this created the worst economic crisis since the 1930s -- and we did it by allowing those with the most economic power to set the rules of our economy.

It's continuing today. By the end of 2012, American workers' share of the economic pie was the lowest in more than half a century while the share going to corporate profits was the highest on record.

This isn't sustainable. We can't have a prosperous economy without a large and growing middle-class.

None of this happened by accident. We allowed it to happen.

But it can be fixed. So let¹s fix it.

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