Thanks to Occupy, rich-poor gap is front and center. See Mitt Romney's tax return.
Thanks to the Occupy movement and information easily disseminated on the Internet, Americans are better informed about the rich-poor gap. The issue will continue to figure prominently in this election. Case in point: The hoopla over Mitt Romney's tax return.
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Of course, today’s poor Americans are far better off than the peasants and serfs of old Europe. And Americans nowadays have a relatively calm and unexcitable political character. They also have a higher average income than most citizens of big European nations. But the United States also has a higher rate of income inequality than Europe.Skip to next paragraph
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Up to now, the rich aren’t being attacked in a vicious manner, thank goodness. But the mood could change if Republicans continue to insist that taxes not be raised on the well-to-do and that Congress cut government spending benefiting the poor and middle class to reduce the deficit. Certainly the rich-poor gap could cost Republicans many a vote later this year – though not their heads.
So why does this income inequality gap feature so prominently in American political discourse now? For those interested in the economic facts, it is far easier today to find them than a few years ago. That’s largely because a host of liberal Web sites are today providing comments, studies, and news about the rich-poor divide.
As preliminary campaign rhetoric shows, the distribution of income and wealth will be a prominent issue in the forthcoming presidential and congressional elections – for both Republicans and Democrats.
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A few years ago such a web site could have been ignored by Washington politicians. But today more citizens are getting their news and views from blogs, aggregate web sites, and social media, while traditional news media – both print and online – struggle to keep their audience.
Even the cautious Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris uncharacteristically speaks of the need to tax the well-to-do in industrial nations.
A study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities criticizes Mitt Romney’s proposal to eliminate major federal assistance programs for low-income Americans and turn them over to the states because the federal bureaucracy eats up most of the money Congress provides. “Simply false,” the study charges, noting that more than 90 percent of such programs as Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers, and school meals goes to beneficiaries, not the federal bureaucracy.
Clearly, Americans – thanks in large part to sites like these and the Occupy movement’s persistent message – are more aware of the rich-poor gap. It has become a subject of national discussion and will figure significantly in the election season to come.
David R. Francis is a former Monitor economics reporter and columnist.