America has been undergoing a period of income redistribution that has resulted in the rich getting richer at the expense of the bottom 90 percent, a new Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report states. And to fix it, lawmakers must shift gears to support the vast majority of this nation’s families.
The document finds that it will take a broad reworking of the U.S. economic agenda to reverse course. That includes aggressively pursuing full employment as a policy goal, re-regulating the financial sector, increasing infrastructure investment (which the Teamsters support) as well as investing in education, childcare and environmental improvements.
“A range of economic policy changes in recent decades were made that had the completely predictable effect of increasing inequality,” said author Josh Bivens, who is EPI’s research and policy director. “These changes were justified by claims that there would be such a large growth payoff that everybody would be made better off. They clearly failed: we got the large increase in inequality and didn’t get any growth payoff, so it’s time to try a new approach.”
To boost the economic power of everyday Americans, the document says, elected officials should continue to look at raising the minimum wage, restoring collective bargaining rights, expanding overtime rights to salaried workers, improving unemployment insurance and implementing new paid leave rights.
In case there is any doubt such changes are needed, a recent New York Times column details the growing problem of low-income people being imprisoned for not being able to pay fines that for many continue to climb higher because they can’t keep pace with the payments. The result is a return to debtors’ prisons that make it a crime to be poor.
This is not supposed to be happening in 21st century America. Hard work is supposed to be rewarded. But too many are making too little, even while working full time. Lawmakers can do something about it. If they don’t, they should be shown the door in November.