Remember in 2008 when McCain economic adviser Phil Gramm instructed us all that Bush’s Great Recession was just imaginary? “We have sort of become a nation of whiners,” he said.
Now Kevin Hassett, a top adviser to Willard (“Mitt”) Romney’s presidential campaign writing in The Wall Street Journal, tells America that economic inequality is a myth.
“Today we hear that the gains from economic growth accrue to the highest-income earners while the standard of living of the poor and middle America stagnates and the gap between the richest and the poorest grows ever wider,” Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur argue. “That portrait of the country is wrong.”
Using a very tired right-wing argument, Hassett says that the availability of cheap consumer electronics, such as cell phones and microwave ovens, means that non-rich Americans have nothing to complain about. But this ignores everyday expenses like food, rent, and utilities. Today struggling families are spending at least 15 percent of their household budget to pay their electric bills.
Igor Volsky on Think Progress:
Hassett argues that safety net programs like “unemployment insurance, food stamps, Medicaid” help families afford basic needs, further shrinking the nation’s income gap. But these programs are already failing to keep up with need and Romney and Ryan have proposed massive cuts to the safety net in order to pay down the deficit and finance a tax cut plan that is heavily skewed towards the rich.
Their approach would only exacerbate the differences between the rich and poor — a gap that has grown dramatically since the late 1970s. Indeed, compared to the 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States has a Gini coefficient — a number that measures the distribution of income on a scale of 0 (perfectly equal) to 1 (perfectly unequal) — of 0.47 and ranks near the very bottom in inequality. America also suffers from the absolute highest “percentage of national income that went to the top 1 percent” and “has seen income inequality increase at a much faster rate than most other countries.”
This trend is already devastating the American democratic ideals of equal opportunity and upward mobility. Unfortunately, neither Romney nor his advisers can see the problem or offer the kind of tax and economic policies that will help solve it.